By Cristina Valencia
It is a sunny afternoon in South Florida and Brandon Frazier and Haven Denney have just finished with their practice of the day. We sit at one of the tables in the rink’s snack bar as I thank them for agreeing to meet with me. They answer with kind smiles and I can’t help but notice how relaxed and genuine they seem.
We begin our chat with memories of their partnership as artistic roller skaters and they laugh, recalling what they were like as little kids.
“It was your typical brother and sister relationship,” says Brandon, who’s always been pretty outgoing, even as a kid.
The team, who first paired up in 2002 made the switch to the ice a couple of years later. They don’t remember the specific reasons, but they do remember going ice skating with Haven’s older sister Caydee, who was the first one to trade her wheels for blades. It seems like skating is a talent that runs in the Denney family. Both parents were world champion roller skaters in addition to all the accomplishments of the Denney sisters, who both compete at the senior national and international level in pair skating.
For some people, it might be strange to compete against a sibling, but not for Haven and Caydee.
“She’s my best friend and above anything else she’s my sister. Having this in common and being able to share it with her has brought us even closer together,” says Haven.
This season, Haven will be the only Denney sister on competitive ice. Caydee and her partner, John Coughlin, who took home the bronze medal at the U.S. Championships in Boston in January, announced that they will not be competing this season. And with the news that both 2014 Olympic bronze medalists Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir and 2014 Olympians Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay have ended their partnership, Figure Skaters Online wanted to know Brandon and Haven’s opinion on what it takes to be a successful team. Although many things contribute to the success of a pair, they believe that first and foremost, they must realize that they are in fact a team. They never blame each other; they either succeed together or fail together. Work ethic is also extremely important, leaving your personal problems off the ice and being on the same page regarding training; basically giving it your all.
With all the changes, Haven and Denney are being considered to be one of the top teams in the country. But have they felt the pressure?
“Our goals for this year would still be the same regardless of what’s going on with the other teams,” Haven points out.
Their philosophy is to focus on the things they can control and just do their best. They remain focused on their training, giving it 100% and hopefully this will take them where they want to be: competing with the top international pairs. Of course, they would love to be at the top of the podium at nationals, however, they are just concentrating on themselves and the work at hand.
Brandon and Haven train with three-time U.S. Champion and Olympian John Zimmerman and his wife, five-time Italian Champion and Olympian Silvia Fontana. Having coaches who’ve had relatively recent competitive experience is something that Brandon and Haven benefit from.
“John and Silvia are amazing coaches, they understand the pressure of competing and they are tough when they need to be but at the same time they are considerate and they listen to us,” the pair says.
Brandon and Haven are the 2013 World Junior Champions and they finished 5th at both the 2013 and 2014 U.S. National Championships. They are assigned to Skate America in Chicago and Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Russia, for the 2014-2015 ISU Grand Prix season. They will be skating their long program to music from The Lion King and although it does have vocals, it is more instrumental with the vocals being more like accents to the music until the very end. Their short program is to “Speak Softly Love” by Andy Williams, the love theme from The Godfather. This music actually uses more sung vocals throughout the program along with instrumental, but it is more like a dance where the vocals are sung clearly in the story of the music.
“I love the new rule allowing lyrics. I feel it opens our range to so much more variety. It gives us more options in selection, to expand as performers in interpretation with choreography, costumes and everything,” says Haven.
For Brandon and Haven, a big part of competing is to have fun. They like the whole experience, not just being on the ice. Brandon loves traveling, seeing new places, meeting new people and he always tries to enjoy this part of skating as well. When Haven’s not skating, she likes to enjoy the warm Florida weather, going to the beach and soaking up the sun.
Brandon says people often ask him where he sees himself five years from now and whether he thinks he’ll still be skating with Haven and his answer is always the same: “If I’m not skating with Haven, it’ll be because I’m not skating anymore. She’s my partner. We’re a team and we’ll always be a team,” to which Haven adds: “Yes, it’s the same for me.”
We conclude our conversation with the reassurance that their partnership remains solid and their eyes set on the prize.