Kamiak graduate wins gold at Junior Worlds Ice dancing competition
Kamiak High School graduate and former Mukilteo resident Jean Luc Baker and his partner Kaitlin Hawayek recently won a gold medal in ice dancing during the 2014 Junior World Ice Dance Championships in Bulgaria.
It’s just the latest win for the pair after their strongest season ever. Since the beginning of their partnership less than two years ago, Baker and Hawayek have earned first place at the ISU Junior Grand Prix series and finished second at the Grand Prix Finals last December in Japan.
“We’ve had a lot of success in the last couple of months,” said Baker.
Baker, who came to the U.S. at the age of 4 with his parents from England, has skating in his blood. His mother, Sharon, was an ice dancer for Great Britain at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, while his dad Stephen is a para-skater.
The family moved to Edmonds and both Sharon and Stephen are coaches at Olympic View Arena in Mountlake Terrace. Baker said he’s skated his whole life, on and off until he was 10, when he entered a show and just never stopped.
“I was always on the ice, and I liked it, but when I was 10, I really got into it,” he said.
Baker continued skating throughout his high school years, and after he graduated from Kamiak in 2012, he moved to Detroit to pursue skating full time at the Detroit Skating Club.
Detroit, the hub of U.S. and Canadian ice dancing teams, features the top three clubs in the country, including the one where current Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White train.
When Baker first started ice dancing, he skated with fellow Kamiak student Joylyn Yang. After he moved east and she retired from the sport, Baker met and started skating with current partner Hawayek.
He said they were a little behind their first season together, not meeting and training until well into the off-season, and counts their extra year of work toward their success this winter.
“Our previous season, we got a late start compared to others,” said Baker. “Usually you’re training and going by May and I didn’t move to Michigan until the first week of June.
“We were playing catch up. But this year, we had the whole off season and really pushed ourselves.”
That extra work paid off, as the team finished in first or second place at competitions around the world.
Baker said they knew going into the Junior World’s competition it could be possible to win, but didn’t put too high of expectations on themselves.
Knowing that the reigning champions from Russia were likely coming back to compete, Baker said the pair worked extra hard, hoping to give the Russian team a run for their money.
“We thought the reigning champions from Russia were coming back, so we were really just drilling everyday, getting better, and they ended up withdrawing the day before we left,” said Baker. “We knew we still have a job to do. The No. 2 Russian team was still really good.”
Baker and Hawayek’s pushed on, earning a record-breaking score at the competition. They earned 91.36 points during the free skate and 157.12 points for their total score, season bests and a new world record in both events.
Now in the off-season, Baker said they are still very busy, doing shows and local events, helping to raise money for the expensive and busy upcoming season later this year.
He said its not often, especially during the winter, that he’s able to come home to see family and spend time in the Pacific Northwest.
The duo competed at an event in Wenatchee in January, his last visit West. Despite the fact his parents weren’t able to watch him compete in Bulgaria in person, Baker said thanks to the Internet they still could watch most of the competitions.
“It’s so nice to know they are able to watch it and, even though I know they can’t be there, I couldn’t be happier they can see it,” he said.
To learn more about ice dancing and Baker, visit hawayek-baker.ice-dance.com.
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