Elaine began her skating journey after a birthday surprise to see “Puss in Boots on Ice” at the Gaumont Theatre in Southampton. This led to Elaine asking to try skating for herself, which she did at her local rink where she was soon taught to skate by the sister of the late NSA historian Dennis Bird, a fortuitous coincidence considering what would later transpire. Elaine later renewed her love of the sport after watching John Curry skate in the 1970’s and this, together with being a skating “Mum”, saw her begin to follow the sport and its competitors more closely. After encouragement from renowned skating judge Pamela Davies MBE, Elaine began to involve herself in volunteering.
Beginning in 1989 at the European Figure Skating Championships in Birmingham Elaine spent many happy years working in a variety of volunteer roles, notably with the results team at local, regional, and national competitions including the British Championships. She was also the long-time treasurer of the Southampton Ice Dance and Figure Skating Club and at the 1995 World Figure Skating Championships held at the Birmingham NEC, Elaine was a key member of the organising committee, working closely alongside Courtney Jones.
In 2012, Elaine was in charge of access to the Kiss and Cry at the European Championship in Sheffield, ensuring skaters and coaches entered and departed the correct way, often having to stand up to notable skating personalities who wanted to try and bend the rules, as a result. Towards the end of the championships, none other than 2006 Olympic Champion Evgeny Plushenko and winner of the men’s event at Sheffield approached her, clicked his heels together and saluted, apologising for trying to take short cuts earlier in the week!
In 2005 Elaine was honoured to be asked to succeed Dennis Bird as the association’s official historian. That early link, being coached by Dennis’s sister, had come full circle and she spent the next 18 years making the role her own. Elaine was soon in demand for quotes and TV appearances including BBC1’s The One Show, such is her encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport. One tradition Elaine introduced was to produce displays at the British Championships that promoted and celebrated the sports rich history here in the UK.
Elaine has written many impeccably researched articles and obituaries that provide fitting tributes to the skaters who have left their mark on the sport, of particular note is her detailed exploration of the life and career of British skating pioneer and the first ever women’s World and Olympic Champion, Madge Syers. Her extensive and ongoing research and collecting has greatly enhanced the associations archive and allowed her to help so many who have contacted her with queries, be they former skaters or skating history enthusiasts. Ryan Stevens, whose published works on Canadian skating history form the wonderfully informative blog SkateGuard said of Elaine,
“There is absolutely no way that I could have done the research that I have without Elaine’s kind help and patient support. She never tired of my questions - and there were a million, I’m sure!” An example of Elaine’s commitment to the history of our sport came when Ryan was conducting research for a biography of 1936 Olympian and Hollywood movie star Belita Jepson-Turner. On his behalf, Elaine travelled to Belita’s home village of Nether Wallop, found the estate where she grew up and tracked down surviving members of her family who had a treasure trove of information. As Ryan acknowledged, without Elaine’s detective work on his behalf, the project may never have come to fruition.
Elaine has taken the decision to step back from her volunteer work as well her post as the sports historian here in the UK and she will be a very tough act to follow. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Elaine for her years of dedicated service to British Ice Skating, and for her love of skating that has led to endless hours of research that have not only helped so many but also added greatly to the rich tapestry of skating history across the globe; a wealth of knowledge that will continue to inspire future generations of skaters and skating fans alike. We wish Elaine all the absolute best for a well-earned retirement and can only say once again – Thank you!
Written by Frazer Ormondroyd. Elaine pictured with CEO Michelle Draper, President Robin Cousins, and Phil Hayes who now takes over the role as British Ice Skating Historian