Meet Sara Buch-Weeke
To succeed in figure skating, you need a few crucial ingredients: tenacity, discipline, passion, purpose, and maybe a sprinkle of talent and a dash of luck. But above all, you need to have a dream. And Danish ice dancer Sara Buch-Weeke definitely has a dream. A dream so strong, in fact, that it led her almost 4,000 miles across the Atlantic to the Mariposa School of Skating, where she partnered up with Nicolas Woodcock and started a new chapter of her life - and her skating career - in Canada. Skating under a small federation can have its challenges, but Sara and Nic are determined to represent Denmark on the international scene. Sara talked with us about adjusting to life in Ontario, passing on her knowledge to the next generation of Danish ice dancers, and what she hopes 2020 will bring for her on and off the ice.
Birthday: (17 years old)
Born: Copenhagen, Denmark
Hometown: Copenhagen, Denmark
Currently: Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Country Represented: Denmark
Skating Club: Mariposa School of Skating
Discipline: Ice Dance
Partner: Nicolas Woodcock
Training Location: Mariposa School of Skating in Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Blades: MK Dance
Sara and Nic debut their new skating programs at Minto Summer Skate - armed with a flashy foxtrot and nostalgic Queen medley, this new duo started the season off with a bang!
Q: You grew up in Denmark and just moved to Barrie, Ontario, a few months ago to train with your new partner, Canadian ice dancer Nicolas Woodcock. How did you decide which country to represent and train in, and how has it been adjusting to the Canadian culture?
A: It was clear for both of us that we wanted to represent Denmark because of the advantages that come with representing such a small country, which has no other junior ice dancers at the moment. The Danish federation has agreed to send us to three ISU competitions during the fall where we will try to qualify for Junior Worlds in March 2020. We are planning to compete at the Pavel Roman Memorial (November 8th - 10th), Golden Spin of Zagreb (December 4th - 7th), and the Bavarian Open (February 4th - 9th).
It was even more clear that we would train at Mariposa in Barrie, Canada, because it's the club where Nic has always skated. We could not train in Denmark, as we don’t have as much ice time and the same off-ice facilities we do here. In Denmark, we have another system of training - we only have about six to eight 45-minute-long ice dance sessions in a week... and that is all in group lessons. So, it isn’t as focused as here, where we have four hours of practice, plus our off-ice training (Pilates, gym, ballroom dance, ballet, etc.) each day, Monday to Friday. In addition, we train with other ice dancers from pre-novice to senior here at the Mariposa Skating Club.
Sara og Nic repræsenterer Danmark i kunstskøjteløb!
In some ways, it has been really easy to adjust to Canada, as the Danish and Canadian cultures are pretty much alike. Of course there are the odd situations where it is very obvious that the cultures are different, but I can see advantages in both cultures and countries. The most challenging part has been the language - I am bilingual in Danish and German, so English is my third language, which I only learned in school five or six years before I started skating with Nic. I am catching up very fast of course, but there are many situations where I don't understand everything.
Furthermore, I still live in Denmark and go back every time I can to see my friends, my family, and to coach my Danish solo dance teams.
Q: The senior Canadian-Danish ice dance team of Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen are in a similar situation as you and Nic - how has their story inspired you, and what do you think should be done to get more people in Denmark interested in ice dance?
A: Nikolaj Sorensen’s story has definitely been inspiring me a lot! Nikolaj trained and used to represent the Danish club I also trained at and now represent with Nic. Nikolaj found a Canadian partner just like I have done - they represented Denmark for many years, and I used to go to the Danish Nationals to see them skate. In fact, I was coached by both Nikolaj and Laurence for three weeks last summer, when I was in Canada to train.
Left: During summer 2018, Sara (along with former partner Linus Colmor Jepsen) had the opportunity to train at Montreal's Centre Gadbois under the Canadian-Danish (or #Danadian, as some fans call them) ice dance team of Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen.
I started skating when I was 12 years old with two 45-minute-long sessions a week. In my view, Nikolaj is the proof that it is possible to get far in this sport, even if you come from a small country without a lot of ice time.
In Denmark, I do think it's possible to get more skaters interested in ice dance. Last season, I started my own solo dance team with nine skaters in the age range between six and 46 years old. I started from scratch with them, and at the end of the season, most of them participated in an interclub competition for dancers, Copenhagen Dance Cups, with skaters from all over Europe. My skaters improved very fast, and most of them are now really happy skating solo dance. The issue is that we don't have many boys or ice dance coaches in Denmark at the moment, so it is hard to start ice dance.
In December 2018, Sara was crowned the Danish national champion in the junior solo dance category - a title very well-deserved!
Q: What challenges have you and Nic faced in your early partnership, and what makes you two work so well together? A: Actually, we have never had any challenges between us, on or off the ice or at home. When I am in Canada, I am staying with Nic and his parents. We have very different personalities, but we both respect each other's differences and really have no issues or argue. We have the same goals and work hard towards them while having a good time on and off the ice. I know it sounds like we're a happy-go-lucky team, and I actually think we are!
Whether improving their acro skills in the gym or perfecting their opening pose on the ice, Sara and Nic are proof that teamwork really does make the dream work.
Q: I love your new Queen free dance! Tell us about why you wanted to skate to Queen, how you chose those songs, and what makes your Queen program different from anyone else’s Queen program.
A: We love it too. I had just arrived in Canada in the spring this year, and we had to choose music. I think it was day two or so of our partnership when Nic just asked me if I would like to skate to Queen for the free dance. He suggested "Don't Stop Me Now," and I thought it was a perfect idea. The coaches loved the idea as well - they said that this is the music from their youth! (laughs) However, they thought that song was too overdone. We heard a few Queen songs - actually very many of them! - and wanted us to skate to something not so overused, but still recognisable. That's why the last piece is instrumental!
After we had almost finished the choreography (with the music in the order of "Love of My Life", "Bohemian Rhapsody", and "Seaside Rendezvous"), we changed the order of the music pieces to what it is now: "Seaside Rendezvous," "Love of My Life," and "Bohemian Rhapsody." Kelly Johnson, our choreographer, simply came in one morning and said that she had an epiphany the evening before - she wanted our program to reflect Freddie Mercury's life with a happy beginning, love of his life, and a tragic ending.
Don't stop them now! Sara and Nic perform their cinematic Queen free dance at North York Summer Skate last month.
(Video courtesy of Colonel Green)
Q: Looking ahead, what are three skating-related goals and three non-skating-related goals you have for yourself in 2020?
A: My non-skating goals for myself in 2020 are:
1) Finish my online high school course in Danish and take the exams in Denmark in May 2020. I am taking three years of school in one year online. It will be very challenging for me, as I am dyslexic and read very slow. Fortunately, I have a system which reads the text for me out loud. The online course consists of 10 subjects, I have just started, and the first subject is 35 hours, I think I will need more than 50 hours for this subject... I have not dared to look at the other nine subjects yet! (laughs) Fun fact: I am not dyslexic in German - I think that's because the words are spelled as they are pronounced, which is not the case in Danish or English.
2) Keep in touch with my friends at home in Denmark. I practice about 30 hours a week - and sleep a lot - and with the time difference, it's not always easy to call them at a good time. Fortunately, I have a phone subscription that allows me to call my friends in Denmark for free.
3) Become a permanent resident in Canada. My parents are looking into it at the moment. I don't know yet how long that process takes and what documentations we need, but I hope that I will get the permanent residency in 2020.
From Copenhagen to the Great White North, Sara spreads a little sunshine wherever she goes!
My skating-related goals for myself in 2020 are:
1) Participate in Junior Worlds in March 2020. That requires two things: that we get the required minimum technical scores (23 points in rhythm dance and 37 in the free dance), and that the Danish federation thinks that we are good enough to go to Junior Worlds.
2) Improve my skating skills.
3) Have more stable and secure twizzles.
Sara and Nic perform their jazzy Tea-Time Foxtrot rhythm dance to "You and Me" (from Victor/Victoria) and "Puttin' on the Ritz." North York Summer Skate was their second competition of the season and resulted in much-improved scores!
(Video courtesy of Colonel Green)
If you were a fruit, which one would you be and why?
Strawberry, because they are so sweet! (laughs) Or a blueberry, because they are so small!
How do you like to spend a day off?
With friends and family and with crafting and drawing. I am very creative and have always designed my own skating dresses, for example.
My Sundays in Canada are often spent drawing while I am on FaceTime with my family at home the whole day. My family have me sitting on a selfie stick in the main room, and then it's almost as if I am really there!
Sara and her mom spend a fun day painting pottery together. Sara's artistry on the ice is only matched by her artistry off of it!
What are three words your friends and family would use to describe you?
Happy, empathic, hardworking.
Favorite Danish food?
I don't really have any Danish food favorites - my father is from Germany, my brother and I are from Ethiopia, and only my mother is from Denmark, so we don't eat traditional Danish food at home. My favorite food is traditional Ethiopian food!
Quote to live by?
"Hakuna Matata," which means "no worries." My first skating program was from Lion King, and I had the "Hakuna Matata" song in the program - I loved it!
There is never a dull moment (or expression!) with 17-year-old Sara!
KEEP UP WITH SARA
Sara's Instagram: @sara.b.w
Nic's Instagram: @nicolasw_
Team Instagram: @sara_and_nicolas
YouTube: sara buch-weeke
All other photos and videos courtesy of Sara Buch-Weeke