For most of the year the picturesque town of Oberstdorf hosts walkers looking to explore some of the 200km of trails through the Allgäu Alps or skiers crossing the miles of fresh snow. That all changes for one week as the idyllic Bavarian village plays host to an ISU International Adult Competition and the world’s adult skating community takes over.
Phil Brown has been travelling to Germany for the competition for more than 10 years, and will be skating this week. He got into ice skating when his daughter started lessons, instead of just sitting and watching he took up the offer of an adult skating lesson and hasn’t stopped since.
For Phil, and the majority that go to the competition in Germany, one thing is common, a love of the sport. He runs a Facebook group that has swelled to 200 members who share everything from details of flights and transfers to memories and photos, it has become a hub of information for the event.
He sums it up quite simply as “an amazing competition”. He recalls sitting in a restaurant with people from every country he could think of, talking about skating. “You get to meet people from all over the world all with a shared passion”.
“We’re doing it because we want to keep fit, socially mix with people. It’s something different from sitting in front of a computer screen, it’s a complete release.”
The competition will see a wide range of adult skaters competing, from 28 (25 in Synchronised Skating) to 78 year-olds. Some are there to enjoy the atmosphere created by a community of skaters, but there are also those with medals on the mind. Typically, Great Britain has done very well throughout disciplines, often coming out on top of the medal table.
This year more than 30 Brits will take to the crystal clear ice made from water taken straight from the mountains that stand over the three pads.
“You can have a mare of a skate, it doesn’t matter. It’s obviously nice if you can walk away with a medal but you pick yourself up and get on with it.” Phil added. “There’s a community of people supporting you and your performance. It’s a really nice environment”
This year’s competition will be the first since 2019 after the pandemic forced the cancellation of the event for two consecutive years. During lockdown the spirit of Oberstdorf continued through online calls and quizzes that gave people from across the globe the chance to drop in and talk. The bonds and memories are so strong that sharing memories over zoom brought tears to the eyes of some.
Returning on a slightly smaller scale as it builds back up, days previously ran from 9am until 10pm, Oberstdorf still promises to be a highlight of the adult skating calendar. A livestream means that skaters don’t have to spend every minute of the day in the rink supporting their peers, it also allows fans across the globe to enjoy performances they may not otherwise never see.
As the level of skating set to be shown throughout this week will highlight, adult skating is certainly more than a hobby, with a dedicated and passionate group of skaters at the very heart of it. It is also a route into the sport for those that didn’t take it up as children, showing that ice skating is truly for everyone.
Phil gave one piece of advice that will resonate with skaters across the world, “stick with it”. “It’s very easy to give up but ice skating is one of those things. If you continue to practice it will happen.
“It’s not easy, unfortunately the people who are good at it make it look easy, but just give it a go!”
The link to the livestream for the ISU Adult National Oberstdorf will be published on the BIS social media channels once confirmed. More information can be found on the ISU event page here.