Britain’s Hamer Off to Fast Start

Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

John Hamer

Great Britain’s John Hamer exceeded all expectations when he finished 19th at the 2004 European Championships in Torino, Italy. It was even more surprising because before Europeans, Hamer had only competed internationally in three junior events with his best placement a fourth at the Mladost Trophy in Zagreb in 2002. “It beat all the goals the association had for me,” Hamer said. “Of course, you always want to be placed higher, but maybe that wasn’t meant to be on my first go. It was definitely a crazy experience, beyond my wildest dreams.”

“Now I’m looking forward to going to Moscow for Worlds,” Hamer continued. “It will be nice to test myself against the whole world and give myself a bench mark for the future events. I looked on the ISU website and I’m currently ranked 117th in the world, so other than skating well at Worlds my goal is to break the top 100 to start with. And have a top 50 score using the C.O.P system.”

The 20-year-old was a late starter in the sport. “I only started skating when I was about eleven,” he recalled. “My parents were in a car accident and my mother had a broken pelvis. To help her get back on her feet again, the doctors suggested that she try some sport. There was an ice rink two minutes from where we live so I went with her to the rink to learn skating. I fell every time but I loved it so I started taking lessons the next year.”

“I hadn’t really been involved in sports before except running,” Hamer continued. “I played some soccer but wasn’t very good. I never really excelled at anything and was never on a team.” But skating proved to be where Hamel’s talents lay. He landed a double axel by 15 and his first triple jump, a salchow, the next year. “It’s actually one of the more difficult jumps for me now,” he said. “I’d much rather do a triple axel now. But I’m happy my hardest jump is an easy jump. I’ve been landing the triple axel and quadruple toe loop on and off but it’s hard to find to train the jumps when you’re preparing for competitions.”

Hamer rose rapidly through the ranks in Great Britain from first in juniors in 2003 to ninth in seniors in 2004 and first in seniors in 2005. “I’ve had no down time since Nationals,” Hamer added. “We never planned to be able to compete at the Europeans. It’s really been an out of this world experience. Now that I’ve been there, I’ll be able to plan better and be able to do an international season. I’ve learned a lot about the Code of Points. We didn’t have it at the British Nationals. We won’t have it until next year. My programs were designed for the 6.0 system and I had to change them quickly to suit the new system.”

“The Code of Points really rocks,” he continued. “You can jump up in the standings if you do good. Before you had no chance, but now you can catch the leaders. It takes the boredom factor out of it for the crowd. Afterwards you can look and see that this was good, this was bad, this was better than the guys ahead.”

“Now I can do the Nationals with more confidence,” he continued. “The other skaters can do small competitions but not internationals. This is another league, skating in the same group with Joubert and Plushenko. I really enjoyed it. They’re legendary so skating with them was like wow. Brian was relaxing me and asking me if I was OK. It made me feel really good. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat at practice. It was crazy our there. You can be a tortoise and put your head down or you can show off your stuff. I decided I wanted to show off more.”

“This year was a real turning point for me,” Hamer said. “Four years ago, I was a fan in Nice getting Yagudin’s autograph. Now I’m skating with some of the same guys. It’s a massive fight going against guys with 18 or more years of experience but I know they’re only one or two jumps ahead of me when I see the protocols. I actually scored higher than Joubert and Plushenko on the change foot spin.”

Gary Jones has coached Hamer since his first lesson. “Gary’s like a second dad to me,” Hamer said. “He has an unorthodox style of coaching. It may not suit others but it’s good for me. I’m overexcited and he’s calm. If I had an excited coach, I’d be in trouble. Hamer trains in Gillingham, Kent. He practices five days a week for two or three hours a day, except for Tuesday, when he spends almost the entire day on the ice.

Hamer is the first British skater to use the new Freedom blades designed by Chris Howarth, at John Watts Blades in Sheffield. The blades are curved on the back rather than straight. That allows Hamer to do some moves on the back of the blades that were not possible previously. “I met Chris at an open competition and started talking to him about his new blade company,” Hamer said. “I was cheeky enough to ask to try out his blades and for some reason he allowed me to have a pair of “evolution” blades to test.”

“The friendship has developed over a good few years and I now try out Chris’s blades and give him feedback,” Hamer added. “For example if I thought that the sole plate was too thin he would go back to the drawing board and re-design them with a better sole plate and so on. The John Watts team is again very close to me and I consider them all very good friends of mine. I feel very privileged to be able to work with them in developing both my skating and their blades.”

Jones and Hamer jointly choreograph his programs, both of which he usually changes each year. “I pick all my own music,” Hamer stated. “I put anything I like on a CD and take it to practice. I play the music during the practice sessions and if it blends into the background, then I won’t use it. If it stands out, then we have to decide what we would do with it. If it gives us the most ideas, we use it. I actually tried using ‘Lord of the Rings’ a few years ago. It took me over six hours to cut the music and then we took it to the rink and played it. Gary and I both thought it was pretty music, but what could you do with it.”

“I like to find music that the crowd can get behind,” Hamer noted. “If they enjoy it, you get the crowd behind you and then you can do more because you want to fight to the end for them. This season he is using “Chronologie II” by Jean Michel Jarre for the short program and “Victory” by Ronan Hardiman for the long.

Hamer does a few hours teaching under Hamer to earn some spending money, but said, “I don’t have any future career plans. Maybe I’ll go into teaching. We want to have more people come and train with us. I’ve finished high school but don’t plan to go to university.”

“I don’t have any sponsors,” he added, “except for John Watts blades. It’s basically the bank of mum and dad. The mums deserve the medals more than the skaters. And there are lots of other people who help you win the medals – the coaches, the people who make the costumes. I just deserve the clip the medal came on. They deserve the rest. I’ve also got a big group of friends who come along as supporters. They’re more like a family than a team.”

For fun, Hamer enjoys going out to movies with his girlfriend, an actress-model. “I like action and comedies and she loves musicals. I can’t stand musicals. But I have to go to them so she’ll go to the action films. I’ve got a huge DVD collection and when I looked through it, they were all cars, chicks, and guns.” He also used to collect Star Wars memorabilia. But his prime hobby is cars. “I’m a big fan of my car,” he said. ” It’s a Peugeot 206. I’m a bit of a boy racer.”

Hamer hasn’t traveled much, but said, “I have trained a bit in Canada which was a wonderful place. I stayed with my good friend Vaughn Chipeur, who is also a skater for Canada. We met at our Junior Grand Prix in Poland in 2003. I have plans to either go back and see him or to get him to come over and see Great Britain. I would love to travel to Tokyo for the World Championships in 2007.”

The new British champion realizes he’s got a hard road ahead to the 2006 Olympics. “There’s a lot to live up to being British,” he said. “There were so many fantastic skaters in the past – John Curry, Robin Cousins, Steven Cousins. You have to be a wonder skater to measure up to them. I just hope people will remember me as John Hamer.”

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