Ice Network

Olympian Jones Baker hopes family legacy grows

Mother of U.S. ice dancer Jean-Luc Baker proud of son's achievements
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1988 Olympic ice dancer Sharon Jones Baker hopes her son, Jean-Luc Baker, earns the opportunity to compete at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. -Courtesy of Sharon Jones Baker

As he aims to fulfill his dream, ice dancer Jean-Luc Baker continues to work toward earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team ahead of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Should he be successful in his attempt to reach PyeongChang with partner Kaitlin Hawayek, the 23-year-old will make personal history, but not family history.

His mother, Sharon Jones Baker, represented Great Britain in five world championships and at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Now retired, Jones Baker hopes her son is next in line to grow the family name on the grandest of stages.

"At the opening ceremony, I was just in awe of everything," said Jones Baker, 53. "You feel proud for your country. You meet so many athletes all so disciplined and striving for the same goals as you. We still have so many friends."

Jones Baker and husband Stephen Baker are both skating coaches, so Jean-Luc was put on the ice at an early age. Initially, he wasn't overly enthusiastic about skating, so he studied tae kwon do from the ages of four to seven. After taking in an ice show at the rink where his parents coached, the youngster rediscovered his passion for skating.

"He's always been a performer. Even when he was small, he would dance to music all the time," said Jones Baker, who has lived in Washington State for about 20 years. "We put him in the ice show and he got the bug. We didn't push him. We made sure he wanted to be on the ice."

Jones Baker understands what it's like living up to steep expectations. She and former partner Paul Askham competed in the years following countrymen Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's run to Olympic glory at the 1984 Games, which was also the time fellow ice dancers Karen Barber and Nicky Slater decided to retire after one year as British champions.

"Torvill and Dean were a great inspiration; they were fabulous to follow," said Jones Baker, who enjoys reminiscing about her Olympic experience every four years. "But we got a lot more pressure than we expected."

They ended their amateur career after the 1989 World Championships and initially hoped to compete until 1992, but could not afford to do so financially. Instead, they joined a show, but got to fulfill their competitive dreams when they won the World Professional Championships. Following the successful run at the backend of their careers, both skaters took up coaching.

Jones Baker and Baker coached Jean-Luc early in his career, but when the time came to send him off to Detroit for additional tutelage, they willingly let him go.

"It's very important he becomes himself, otherwise you end up looking like a machine," Jones Baker said. "He's a very passionate skater. I feel very strongly about that; you've got to be able to feel the music to express and project to the audience and judges. Steve and I have always said, 'You must enjoy what you do.'"

"We always have fun on the ice when we coach," she added. "You need a good sense of humor in this sport to take the ups and downs."

These days, she does a lot of choreography, teaches edgework and skating skills, and works with skaters on moves in the field. Despite the popularity of ice dance in the U.S., she's taken a step back from the discipline while Jean-Luc is competing. She still coaches dance, including occasionally working with Askham's students, but declines to be the primary coach. When her son's competitive days are over, she hopes to jump back in.

Jones Baker and Baker go to the U.S. Championships every year. They'll be there in 2018 as well, hoping that Jean-Luc continues the family tradition and finds a place at the Games in PyeongChang.

"He's doing something that he loves to do," Jones Baker said. "He's in his element out there. I'm so proud."