Emma Brien and Stuart Beckingham
Stephen Carr, aussieSKATES magazine
There’s something special about pairs figure skating: its’
symmetry, grace; speed, athleticism and sheer “wow”
factor. Not only does each skater need to be a strong figure skater
in their own right; but they also need to master technically distinct,
and difficult, pairs elements; such as lifts, death spirals, twists
and throw jumps. And all this whilst skating together in perfect
This is the challenge Sydney skaters Emma Brien and Stuart Beckingham
have taken upon themselves and are achieving with flair and a
good dose of humour. Emma and Stuart have gone from strength to
strength since first becoming a pair in March of this year. After
passing their novice, junior and senior pair tests, they went
on to claim the Macquarie Club and NSW State Senior Pair Titles.
Currently Australia’s Senior Pairs Champions, Emma and Stuart
have taken everything they’ve learned from their respective
singles careers; worked incredibly hard and embraced the world
of “pairs” with increasingly positive results
Theirs has been a massive learning curve; and their achievements
reflect their talent and dedication. Their hard work, under the
direction of coach Stephen Carr, three time Winter Olympian and
19 times National Champion in pairs figure skating, with his sister,
Danielle McGrath, has seen Emma and Stuart improve meteorically
during 2005; culminating in winning the Senior Pairs event at
the 2005 Australian National Figure Skating Championships, held
in August in Perth Western Australia.
Greater still is their triumph that as National Champions, Emma
and Stuart have qualified to represent Australia and compete at
the 2006 World Figure Skating Championships in Calgary, Canada;
during March; following competition in the prestigious ISU Four
Continents Championships, to be held in Colorado Springs, USA,
in January. This championship is considered an important pre-cursor
to Worlds. Last year, 1998 Olympian and Senior Ladies Champion
Joanne Carter gained the highest ever result for an Australian
figure skater at the Four Continents Championships; setting a
new benchmark and becoming the idol of young Aussie skaters everywhere.
Emma and Stuart recently returned from competing in their first
international event together: the historic Karl Schafer Memorial
Championship in Vienna, Austria; which doubled as the Qualification
event for the 2006 Torino Winter Olympic Games. Prior to competition,
they worked intensively on choreography, presentation and program
performance with another three time Winter Olympian, Cameron Medhurst.
“Without a throw triple jump we needed to shift our “jump
elements” to later in our program to maximise points”
says Stuart. “The ISU Judging system marks both individual
elements as they’re skated in a program, as well as components,
which include skating skills, transitions and choreography. Between
Nationals and Vienna we looked to improve both our speed and these
components to bolster our program score”, he added.
Emma, acknowledging Medhurst’s effort, added “To achieve
this we worked closely with Cameron several times per week. His
Olympic and show skating experience contributed to our improved
performance in Vienna. Cameron helped us to focus on different
facets of our skating; balancing artistry with the more technical
The atmosphere in Vienna was tense and motivating. Being in such
a high-level skating environment inspired the pair to skate the
best they could to secure World Championship representation.
“Seeing the pairs in action on the first day of official
practice was enough to lift our performance”, says Emma.
“In the day and a half before we competed, I noticed our
speed into lifts and throws improve - and this was just from being
on the ice with the other teams!”, she added.
To meet changed technical requirements, a number of last minute
changes were made to their short program, such as inclusion of
the difficult star lift. Skating to “Mr Pinstripe Suit”
by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, day one of competition saw the pair deliver
a solid short program, comfortably landing side-by-side double
axel jumps; executing a throw double-salchow with good speed,
height and flow; and a firm star lift. Overall, Emma and Stuart
scored a total of 32.89 in the short program, placing them in
12th position and only 5.06 points behind closest competitors
Uzbekistan; a team who have been skating together for over 5 years.
“Stephen felt we needed to master the star lift; another
of the “hand-to-hip” type-lifts, which have been our
nemesis from the start. Just prior to leaving for Vienna, the
lift began to really work well, although it was still a challenge,
as we had a few collapses until we perfected speed and timing.
In Vienna, we got it right on the night and we’re very pleased
with the outcome“, Stuart notes.
Competition in the pair’s event resumed with the free program
on day three. Emma and Stuart, skating to various pieces including
“Overture from Mask of Zorro”; had made significant
changes to their free program since Nationals, increasing the
difficulty of lifts and altering choreography; to include shifting
the throw double loop and salchow; and jump sequence; to later
in the program to maximise marks. This proved to be an astute
decision; rewarded with higher marks than those received at Nationals,
with a total score of 56.23. Combined with the short program results,
the pair’s overall score of 89.12 secured their qualification
to compete at the 2006 World Championships. With the ISU Four
Continents Championships and World Championships now cemented
in their event calendar for this season, the pair and their support
team have set new performance goals: a total performance mark
above the score of the 20th qualifying team for the 2006 Olympics.
“Emma and Stuart know they’ve got a lot of work ahead:
they’re committed and have the talent and fitness to achieve
their goals. Participating in pairs competition in Vienna has
given them a new perspective and raised their enthusiasm leading
into the Four Continents and Worlds Championships”, says
“Australia has a long and strong history in pairs figure
skating. Our couples have consistently achieved good results in
international competition, so it’s exciting to see Emma
and Stuart improve and progress. It won’t be easy to achieve
the high quality of elements and level of execution necessary
to compete with the world’s top 16 pairs; but it’s
a good goal for us to aim for“, Stephen added.