After 11 years competing together, it’s safe to say two-time Olympians Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland have experienced their fair share of highs and lows together.
But on the eve of this year’s World Figure Skating Championships, the British ice dance duo admit this season could have panned out very differently had they not opted to rip up the script and start again mid campaign.
On paper, it would appear Buckland and Coomes arrive in Boston for next week's World Championships with momentum building at the right time following a gold medal and personal best score at the Bavarian Open earlier this month.
It’s about showing that we are medal contenders for 2018
To an extent that is true, but that result does not reveal the true story with the duo having opted to do something they have never previously done before – change their short program mid season.
“Making up a routine is something you do extremely early on each year,” explained Buckland.
“Typically we would make up a program May or June time, and you would compete it middle of September possibly but then it wouldn’t really be performance ready for your serious competitions until October, November.”
Detroit-based Buckland and Coomes did the same again this year, but by December the general feeling was that the program was not right and, with the European Championships looming in January, it was back to the drawing board shortly before Christmas.
Coomes picks up the story: “I think with the music choice with our previous short program, we were trying to do something that we perhaps hadn’t done before and the relationship between us and the music, it just didn’t really work.
“We’re the type of people who feed off the energy from the crowd and the energy from the music and I think we went with something that didn’t quite suit us as skaters.
“We’ve picked some new music which is still classical but which gets the crowd going.
“It took us three weeks to make it up and then we had it ready and running it three weeks before the competition so a total of six weeks before European Championships we made the change.”
Despite the short turnaround, the upheaval certainly appeared vindicated at the European Championships.
Coomes and Buckland walked away with three personal bests from their disciplines – their short dance scored them 64.26 and the free dance 98.49 for a combined total of 162.75 – as they finished sixth overall.
To add to the feel good factor, the duo had suffered double heartbreak the previous season with a sickness bug for Buckland ruling them out of the 2015 European Championships while a strand of pneumonia, which left Coomes hospitalized, did for their chances at the 2016 Worlds.
But fit and firing once again, the pair, who recorded their best World Championship finish of ninth in 2014, know they have to keep pushing as the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang start to come into focus.
“We want to do two even better performances at the Worlds and move up to that next third bracket of points scoring,” said Buckland who finished 20th and tenth at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 alongside Coomes.
“That’s all we can plan to do and the rest is down to how everyone else skates and what kind of competition it is.
“We want to better the personal best scores which we got at the Europeans and I think we can.
“It’s about showing that we are medal contenders for 2018. We need to keep building the performances every year and show that we can keep bringing our new elements and new programs that people are interested in watching and showing serious improvement every year.
“I think we’ve definitely done that this year although we are not finished yet.”
By Pippa Field