A number of British skaters took to the ice in Slovenia last month for the 7th Swan Challenge, an annual international adult skating competition. We asked a few what their experience was like, and whether they'd recommend it to other skaters - the answer was an overwhelming 'YES!'
See what they had to say about their time in Bled:
About the Event
A number of British skaters competed in the 7th Swan Challenge in Bled, Slovenia from Friday 20th October through until Sunday 22nd October. Many of our adults have significant challenges to overcome in our personal lives (illness, injuries, work, lack of ice time, lack of rinks, etc) but despite these we all come together for this competition and achieve a lot and support each other!
The team is made up of skaters of different ages, different backgrounds and different areas of the globe!
This year we missed quite a lot of the regular competitors that would skate for GB as they are focused on the WWMG (Winter World Masters Game) happening in January, however this did not stop some regular competitors coming to the competition as well as a number of new faces!
I would like to give a big mention to the tremendous work involved with this competition and the support and welcome from Drsalni Klub Labod Bled. Nothing ever feels too much trouble, and we are welcomed every year with open arms. The competition is held by the skating club and volunteers who work extremely hard. The location of Bled is gorgeous with shops, the rink and a beautiful lake all within walking distance, and the organisers arrange plenty of time for the skaters to sight-see by planning trips to local attractions.
- Laura Somerville
One of the fresh faces was Simon Jell, 36 who had only skated 1 British competition and 1 international competition prior to Bled:
"I was nervous about competing in Bled, but after skate friends provided such wonderful feedback following last year’s competition, it was just something that had to be done… and boy, were they right! The competition was well-organised, especially despite a few technical and timing issues – which were both overcome and well communicated on the event boards. I also can’t thank the organisers enough, for getting my friends to and from the airport, but also helping store our bags when we had an 8 hour wait before our taxis arrived. More importantly - hot croissants provided after the morning practices…needed and necessary!!
"On top of the skating, bled itself was beautiful, with its placid and surreal lake views, and very friendly people. And if these wonderous items wasn’t enough, I managed to grab PBs in both my Free and Artistic skate programmes, with associated gold medals; whilst I was alone in the pre-bronze category. Overall, a fantastic event and with epic views, and so many new friendships!"
Laura Somerville, 29, competing in Bronze Ladies1 & Artistic Bronze Ladies 1.
"This was my second year participating in the Swan Challenge and it did not disappoint. I have completely fallen in love with this competition. There are so many good vibe feelings from the moment of applying to the final day coming home. It was so nice to go back to a place where I had been before and recognise the areas.
"I had two great skates and both I felt were my best performances to date. I firstly did my free skate where I managed to achieve all elements and just missed the podium! My second skate was my artistic programme, I had the worst luck before skating this where my laces came untied on the last minute of the official warm up and my legs went all jelly-like feeling. Not to mention I went over on my ankle in skates which was extremely painful and didn’t think I’d be able to skate - this was moments before I was due to go on the ice!
"Watching the videos back from my skates there’s something about this competition that’s bring the best out of me, I don’t usually smile when competing because I’m focused on doing everything right and don’t have a lot of confidence however this competition it seems to make me smile and feel at ease. The support from team GB as well as many other countries is always lovely. This competition and place have stolen my heart. Bled is beautiful for more than one day."
Lucy Porlock skated in Bronze Ladies III for her 4th time competing in the Swan Challenge:
"I love going to this competition as Bled is such a beautiful place and the rink is in the middle of the town, so everything is easily within walking distance. The organisers are very friendly and encouraging and even arrange airport transfers for us.
"Even though I did not get on the podium this time, I was very pleased with both my performances (artistic and free). I had all my elements called in the free for the first time ever and got the 3rd highest technical score which is a huge achievement for me. It was wonderful to meet up with so many skating friends and make lots of new friends from team GB and many other countries."
"This was my second time participating the Swan Challenge in Bled, Slovenia and it’s such an amazing event! The atmosphere is nice, and I felt incredibly supported from everyone. The event this and last year happened near my birthday so it was a no brainer to turn it into a holiday. Not to mention the location is stunning and I can’t wait for next year!"
"Swan Challenge takes place in Bled Slovenia, a beautiful location and after having to take two months off skating for health reasons it was great for me to be able to return to skating at this competition. The competition is run to help raise money for the skating club and many parents of local skaters help from running the airport shuttles to organizing trips out to local landmarks like Bled Island and Castle or further afield to Ljubljana or Bohinj as well as being there every day to make sure all runs smoothly. This year I finally made it to the beautiful Vintnar Gorge on what turned out to be a lovely warm and sunny day!
"As skaters we are well looked after with fresh warm croissants and cups of tea available in the dressing rooms and plenty of practice ice. I entered three events - Free skating and Artistic at Silver IV and Free Dance at Bronze - and won silver medals in each. After the competition the Gala, including local club skaters as well as performances from many of the competitors, is a lovely way to finish what is a well-run and friendly international competition. It is lovely to meet up again with skater friends from all over the world and skate in a very supportive atmosphere in a very special location."
Final words from Nadia Colbourne, 56:
"I don’t know why, but every year I return to Bled. I want to try different competitions but this one makes me feel safe and loved. Skating friends return, and we are made so welcome - which other competition makes you hot tea and freshly baked croissants by the rink? Ballet, Latin dancing as a warmup is also on offer. And the gala! Love it, Love Slovenia, and happy skating from your crazy cabaret girl Nadia."
One thing's clear - if you haven't considered attending an international competition yet, what are you waiting for!
- A big thank you to Laura Somerville for collecting these stories, and to everyone quoted for their contributions!