THE YEAR THAT

Tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity, sportswoman and Green Party can­di­date Hay­ley Holt, 37, tells Paul Lit­tle about a sig­nif­i­cant year in her life

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS -

Hay­ley Holt

It was 1998. I would have been 17, turn­ing 18 in July, and I was in seventh form, so it was meant to be my last year at Ep­som Girls’ Gram­mar. In­stead, I ended up go­ing to the UK — to Black­pool and the big­gest danc­ing com­pe­ti­tion in the world. Black­pool is the mecca of ball­room danc­ing. I spent a month in Eng­land train­ing and hav­ing lessons from some amaz­ing teach­ers. We’d had to pay for it. I went with Mum and my danc­ing part­ner and we stayed with danc­ing Ki­wis.

And I went to the US Open in Mi­ami as well. It was very dis­rup­tive. When I came back to school, I had fallen so far be­hind that I was not that ea­ger to try to catch up. I had a meet­ing with the dean, Mum and Dad. I was able to leave school and go to uni be­cause of my sixth form marks. I think Mum wanted me to do an­other year, be­cause I was too im­ma­ture, but I showed her.

Or maybe I didn’t. Be­cause I went to uni and started a BA in his­tory, but to­wards the end of the year my brother came into my room and said: “We’re both at uni now, which means we can get stu­dent work visas for the US. Let’s go to Colorado and spend three months snow­board­ing.”

I jumped at the chance. I was 18 and pretty young in the head but an adult in terms of the law, so Mum couldn’t stop me go­ing.

By the end of the year I’d rung Mum and said: “I’m giv­ing up uni and I’m also giv­ing up ball­room danc­ing and I’m go­ing to be a snow­boarder.”

Snow­board­ing was so much free­dom for an 18-year-old. You’re mak­ing your own rules and with peo­ple who are a bit re­bel­lious and anti-es­tab­lish­ment. Ever since I was 7 I had been do­ing some­thing after school all the time — danc­ing three days a week, swim­ming and horse rid­ing. It was very priv­i­leged but very busy.

At the start of that year, I was just a typ­i­cal schoolkid. I thought life was laid out in front of me and I would walk through it. By the end of the year I re­alised I could make my own de­ci­sions and change the course of my life.

Mum was dev­as­tated be­cause she loved danc­ing and wor­ried be­cause I had left uni. My danc­ing part­ner was dev­as­tated when I gave up. We had done so well in Black­pool that, if we had gone back, there would have been a spe­cial star be­side our name and we could have gone straight into the semi­fi­nals. My de­ci­sion took that op­por­tu­nity away from my part­ner, which I re­gret but also don’t re­gret.

I did go back to univer­sity a cou­ple of years later and I’m there again now, study­ing pol­i­tics and his­tory, do­ing a pa­per a se­mes­ter.

But ev­ery­thing from that year has paid off — if I hadn’t snow­boarded, I wouldn’t have done The Crowd Goes Wild and if I hadn’t danced, I wouldn’t have done Danc­ing with the Stars.

At the start of that year, I was just a typ­i­cal schoolkid. I thought life was laid out in front of me. By the end of the year I re­alised I could make my own de­ci­sions and change the course of my life.

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