As Christmas draws closer, temporary rinks are popping up for people to have a fun go at ice skating. But for some it’s a sport they take seriously all year. MISCHA ALLEN reports.
There’s a chill in the air, Christmas is on the way - what better way to feel festive than by wrapping up warm and taking to the ice?
Newcomers to ice skating are being encouraged to have a go at various temporary ice rinks across the area, including ones at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth and Locks Heath Shopping Centre.
Are you one of those who confidently glides across the ice, or do you cling nervously to the edge, desperately hoping you don’t fall over?
In Gosport ice skating is big business at any time, as Gosport Ice Skating Club, based at Planet Ice in the town, is one of the biggest clubs around – the nearest of its kind is in Basingstoke.
With more than 80 regular members, the club helps develop young ice skaters through synchronised skating, pairs skating and ice dancing. It puts on regular competitions as well as supports those who compete at local, national and international levels.
Mark Walton has been chairman for the past two years. He first became involved with the committee three years ago as his daughter, Gemma, had been going to the club for more than 10 years. His wife, Diane, is also involved in managing the synchronised skaters.
Mark, 53, from Waterlooville, says: ‘I took up lessons because I wanted to see how difficult it was, and try to understand and learn it. I skated up to Badge Seven and then stopped because I was getting too many injuries.
‘It’s a lot harder than it looks.’
Mark admits that the club is really changing, especially as there’s been such an influx of members over the past few years thanks to shows such as ITV’s Dancing On Ice.
Membership is around £300 a year but it offers young skaters the chance to perform, as well as having an extra three to four hours on the rink each week and training.
He says: ‘We do demonstrations to promote the rink and we do a lot of summer galas. We ask the skaters in the club whether there is a particular charity they want to hold it in aid of and anything we get on the door will go to that charity.
‘We’ve got synchronised skating teams and that’s about building friendships and developing skaters as a team, and we do a lot of singular skating, ice dancing and free skating.
‘There’s also artistic skating where the team and the coaches come up with a funny routine and they make all of the costumes themselves.’
In Gosport they are trying more than ever to get parents involved with their young skaters.
Mark says: ‘We are one of the very few clubs where parents are welcome to come along and we do a lot to build confidence in skating. It’s important to us to promote family participation.
‘When the kids go the events, everyone stays together and there’s a lot of parental bonding. We like them to see what’s going on in the club, not shut them out. It’s a very family-friendly rink.’
Many of the club’s members skate in external competitions, with some competing at high level. The club itself has won the southern championships with some of its skaters. Mark says Gosport surprises other clubs because they practise in such a small rink, but ‘we do well because we work with the coaches and nurture them through the ice skating training.’
But it’s not just a case of turning up, picking up your skates and hoping for the best. To join, skaters have to be at least a rink gold standard.
But budding ice skaters can take part in the Learn To Skate programme at Planet Ice, which is supported by the National Ice Skating Organisation.
It includes learning fundamental movement and basic ice skating skills, all in 10 stages. Each course lasts six weeks and for a joining fee of £60, it includes a special introductory gift, certificate and badges and a record of achievement.
Mark explains: ‘What they tend to do is come over to Plant Ice and do junior lessons on a Monday evening. They take part along with the coaches that belong to the club and Planet Ice and hopefully that takes them through the badge levels.
‘They can get to the gold badge, where they understand skating much more. They can then decide whether they want to come away from the more social side of it and be more involved with the discipline.’
Every year before Christmas, Planet Ice in Gosport puts on a ice show for the local community, and many of the performers are from the Gosport Ice Skating Club. From December 14-16, they will take to the rink in Ice Amazia.