Friday, 20/7/2018 | : : UTC-7
Skate Today

Australian Dancers Win First Gold

Danielle O’Brien & Gregory Merriman

Danielle O’Brien, 15, and Gregory Merriman, 16, won their first gold medal when they won the 2005 Australian junior dance championships to earn a trip to Junior Worlds. They finished 26th at their first World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada in March. “The skating was at quite a high standard there,” O’Brien said. “It was a good experience for us.” Earlier in the season, they placed tenth in the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Harbin, China.

Interestingly, the Australians were reunited with several teams that had competed with them at the Lake Placid Novice International Ice Dancing Competition in 2002, including Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Germany’s Rina Thielke and Sascha Rabe. That event started their international travels. “Travelling to competitions has become a routine now,” Merriman said.

Merriman started skating when he was four. “My brother, James, started skating and I followed him,” he said. “He’s doing junior dance too. I like dance because it’s more social. You’re not alone.” O’Brien started much later, when she was seven. “I saw Joanne Carter at the Olympics and started skating for fun,” she said. “I started dance after twelve months because my coach asked me to do it. I was in ballet before I started skating. I started when I was five and stayed until three years ago.”

O’Brien was also involved in gymnastics and swimming, making the swimming team in school. Merriman both bowled and batted on his school team and a local recreational cricket team, but had to stop because of skating. He plays tennis and enjoys watching rugby.

The dancers began their ice dancing careers with each other in April 1998. Monica McDonald has always been their coach. Since their return from the 2005 Junior World Championships, O’Brien & Merriman are also coached by Maria and Andre Filippov. O’Brien and Merriman train in Canterbury, near Sydney, for two hours a day, five days a week in the summer and four hours a day in the summer. Off ice training is limited to a few hours a week, but Merriman noted, “I ride my bike everywhere.”

McDonald chooses the couple’s music and reviews it with the dancers to be sure they like it. She also choreographs all of their programs. Because they didn’t use it much in 2003-04, the couple kept their free dance for 2004-05. Their original dance was to the theme from the movie “George of the Jungle” and Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther”. For the free dance, they used “Steps”, “Windancer”, and “Moving” from “The Secret Garden” by Rolf Lovland.

O’Brien is musical herself, having played the flute in her school’s orchestra for the last four years. She listens to “chart music”, while Merriman listens mainly to rock. Both dancers like to hang out with their friends when not skating. O’Brien likes to go shopping and the movies, while Merriman prefers watching sports, playing video games, and going to the beach. That’s why his favorite travel destinations are on Australia’s Gold Coast, with its beaches and amusement parks. O’Brien enjoyed trip to Canada and Ireland. Both of the skaters hope to go to China and see more of the United States and Canada.

Merriman is a junior in high school, while O’Brien is a sophomore. Her favorite subject is commerce, while his is biology. She plans to be a lawyer, while he intends to have a career in science. But those plans are years away.

For next season, the dancers hope to get back to Junior Worlds and improve their marks on each dance. “I like the new system because it’s fairer,” Merriman said. “It shows you where to work on things that you didn’t do right.”

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Skate Today was created in November 2004 to showcase the people of the skating world, skaters and coaches and others, who make figure skating and ice dancing a pleasure to watch for fans from around the world. The goal was to create a site that would give viewers an insight into the personalities of the people involved in this sport and to give you a more personal connection when watching them live at an event or on the television. Our staff knows how much time and dedication is put into this sport and that's why Skate Today was created.

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