Nicholas Buckland and Penny Coomes teamed up back in 2005 when they trained in Nottingham. Four years later the pair moved to New Jersey so they could train with two-time Olympic Champion Evgeny Platov.
After finishing 13th at the World Championships and 5th at the European Championships earlier this year, Nick and Penny now have their sights set on their second Winter Olympic Games.
The duo have been named in the Team GB squad for Sochi 2014 and we caught up with them to ask them about how training is going, National Lottery funding and what they miss most about the UK.
You started 2013 with your best ever finish at the European Championships, finishing fifth – did you enjoy that competition?
Nick Buckland: Yes and no. I think afterwards, yes – we enjoyed the feeling of getting a good result at the competition. We didn’t have the best results going into the competition as we had a few injuries, which always puts a little bit of doubt into your mind, but we came out of it really well because we worked so hard for it so it shows hard works paid off.
At the World Championships in March you achieved the qualifying standard for Sochi 2014 – how excited are you at the prospect of competing at your second Olympic Games?
Penny Coomes: Going to the Olympic Games was a dream come true for both of us and it’s something we’ve dreamt of our whole lives so to be able to go there again is fulfilling another dream. Hopefully it’s a stepping stone to getting to those medal stages for the next competition.
After winning your first competition of this season in Slovakia, Nick, you underwent a heart procedure – how much has that affected your training and competition and how have you both coped?
NB: It didn’t affect it as much as I thought it would, to be honest. The minute somebody mentions ‘heart surgery’ you doubt that you’ll be at the Olympics but the guys at St George’s Hospital – I was dealing with Professor Sanjay Sharma, one of the top cardiologists in the world – they got me in straight away and I was back on the ice within a week. I would never have thought that was possible so I’m very grateful to them.
You live and train in America, can you tell me a bit about your life there? Is it hard being away from your friends and family in the UK?
PC: It was really hard at first, but with things like Skype, we can talk to our families every day. We’re not so far away in the grand scheme of things; we could be home the next day so there’s a comfort in that. We’re there to train and this is the best place for us to do that so that’s where we want to be and we love it out there.
Your coach is two-time Olympic champion Evgeny Platov, how influential is he on your careers?
NB: He’s very influential, he guides us. He’s very experienced in a successful figure skating career so that’s comforting for us when we go through tough times. Having someone like this guiding you in the preparation to an Olympic Games is invaluable.
How important is Lottery funding to both of you?
PC: It means everything – without it we wouldn’t be where we are now and we wouldn’t be able to train in America. It’s an expensive sport and our families were getting to the point where they didn’t know how they were going to continue to support us, so to be able to be Lottery funded takes so much pressure, worry and stress away from us and we can concentrate on our training and reaching the goals set for us. We’re very lucky and very appreciative.
NB: I think we’re also faced with the fact that a lot of our competitors train full-time and to do that and to compete with them that’s what we need to do. Without UK Sport and National Lottery funding we wouldn’t be able to do that.
What will the next few months look like for you as it gets closer to Sochi?
NB: It’s going to be very busy! We’ve got a few more competitions to go and then we’ll have a long process of weeks of training back in America and we’ll have to schedule a build-up to the European Championships and then to peak at Sochi.