An interview with James Hernandez

Wolsey Hall Oxford first met James Hernandez when his ice dancing partner, Phebe Bekker, enrolled on our IGCSE homeschooling courses in 2019. Since then we have enjoyed watching this charismatic and incredibly talented pair, – go from strength to strength – most recently securing a place in the ISU Junior Grand Prix finals in Turin, Italy.

Wolsey Hall Oxford is proud to play a small part in their journey, by way of sponsorship, and look forward to seeing what the future has in store.

We recently interviewed James to find out more about how he became involved in ice dancing, his inspiration, hobbies and plans for the future.

An interview with James Hernandez

How old were you when you first became involved in ice skating/ice dancing?

I began skating when I was just four years old after reluctantly attending my sister’s ice skating birthday party! We joke to this day about it – I will be forever grateful she dragged along her little brother as I might not have ever started skating without her!

an interview with James Hernandez

When did you realise your interest was more than just a hobby?

It wasn’t a singular moment that made me realise skating was no longer a hobby. My first two coaches, whom I owe so much to, offered me the opportunity to compete in open competitions. These events take place all over the country. I enjoyed them a lot, and had some successes alongside that. This paved the way for me to focus solely on Ice Dance and start with my first ever partner aged 12! It was around 13 or 14 that I realised this sport was maybe something that I could do for a career.

Is there a coach or athlete that you look up to as a role model and why?

It’s actually quite incredible when I write this down, but the person I attribute my initial love of ice dancing to was Nicholas Buckland, who is now my current coach! I remember watching him and his partner, Penny Coombes, when I was 11 or 12 years old and being in complete awe of them. I have a really old photo dating back to 2014 where I asked for a photo with them at IceSheffield- I suppose that was a defining moment where I decided Olympic ice dancing was a future that I wanted.

James Hernandez and Phebe Bekker

Did you ever consider giving up ice-dancing and if so, what motivated you to keep going?

Yes, I did! Around 8 or 9, I started to lose some of the enjoyment that previously kept me so hooked in early childhood years. My mother was so supportive of me as a person, not just as an athlete. She never tried to influence my decision to continue or quit skating and never tried to tell me what was right or wrong. After 6 months off the ice, I got so bored not skating and missed the feeling of flying that I had to come back to the sport.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of ice dancing?

I am an outdoorsy person! I love everything about being outside, whether it’s hiking, tennis or just enjoying the sunshine. During the spring or summer, if you can’t find me in the rink, you’ll probably find me on the golf course. Golfing is my favourite sport next to skating and my favourite hobby. It’s my release, it’s my ‘energy restorer’ and it lets me direct my perfectionism into something other than skating for once! I’m also very passionate about football, I follow Chelsea religiously even if I am thousands of miles away!

James Hernandez

Do you have any short-term goals you’d like to accomplish in the next few months to a couple of years?

It’s always difficult to set goals because of all time constraints when we participate in a sport that is largely controlled by other people like judges. But we find it super important to set goals, big and small. We have already accomplished our main goal for this season, which was to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix final in Italy. We are the first British dance team to ever do so. Our goal for the upcoming months is to put everything we can into training for The Junior World Championships and finish the season with two performances we know are the absolute best we could produce!

Grand prix final for Bekker and Hernandez

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