Two of UK ice skating’s key highlights from 2017 came at the beginning and the end of the year, and I am proud to say that I was present at both...
In January we saw the European Figure Skating Championships take place in Ostrava, Czech Republic, where an intrepid GB team gave it their all. GB skaters made it through to the Free Skating/Free Dance in all four disciplines and all pulled amazing performances out of the bag that went above and beyond what had been expected of them.
Two super performances from Lee Valley skater Graham Newberry which placed him 16th overall, bringing tears to Coach and Dad, Christian Newberry, that were shown for all the world to see in close up on the overhead display.
Dundee’s Natasha McKay only just qualified for the free skate, finishing the short programme in 24th place but showed her gratitude with a stomping 16th place finish in the free skate, finishing 18th overall.
In the pairs competition Zoe Jones and Chris Boyadji made their mark with a super 12th place finish in the short programme and a 14th place finish in the free skate, landing them 14th overall. Furthermore, the world was wowed by a 37 year old mum of three skating like a teenager and a star was born!
In the dance competition, Alexandra Palace skaters Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson got stronger as the competition evolves, finishing 19th in the Short Dance, 14th in the Free Dance and stomping 15th overall.
However, commiserations must go out to Nottingham couple Robynne Tweedale and Joe Buckland who, despite producing a great performance in the short dance, just missed out on qualifying for the free dance.
Jumping ahead now to the end of 2017 and we had an incredibly exciting British Figure Skating Championships held at IceSheffield. The competition demonstrated a level of skating at all levels that far exceeded the quality of anything ever seen at these championships before.
In the tough and closely fought Senior Ladies competition Natasha McKay managed to hold on to her title despite some strong challenges.
The Junior Ladies competition was a nail-biter and never before have so many triple jumps been attempted and landed by so many Junior and Senior Ladies.
Sadly, Graham Newberry lost his title but Coventry skater Phil Harris claimed his third.
Zoe and Chris produced yet another dynamic performance to wow those present in the arena.
However, the piece de resistance for 2017 would surely have to be the comeback of Nottingham couple Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland. Following a horrendous injury in 2016, that would have been a career ender for many, Penny fought her way back to fitness and now Penny and Nick are skating better than ever and are ready to take on the world. With a triumphant return to competition to take the Senior Dance title at the Sheffield IJS Open in August 2017 they then went on to take international titles at both the Nebelhorn Trophy and Cup de Nice. They ended the year with their 5th Senior Dance title at the British Figure Skating Championship 2017.
Only Penny, her medical team and close friends and family can ever really know the blood, sweat and tears that Penny has endured to get back to where she is today.
Penny and Nick have competed at six Europeans (placing 3rd in 2014), five Worlds and two Olympics. They are the only GB Figure Skaters to have qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea and go into 2018 knowing that their place at their third Olympics Games is secured. Our look back at key highlights from 2017 really could not finish on a higher note!
(c) Jenny C Bill