Closures are unfair – ice rinks no colder than cheese aisle at Tesco, says GB coach
Skating leaders campaign for quick reopening of venues Female-dominated sport being put ‘under real pressure’
Campaigners say delaying the opening of ice rinks over fears that coronavirus spreads more easily at low temperatures is unfair as the venues are “no colder than the cheese aisle at Tesco”.
Ice rinks were due to reopen on Aug 1, but rising infection rates pushed that back to at least tomorrow. In what is a qualifying season for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, just two high-performance rinks, in Bradford and Dundee, have reopened for a handful of elite athletes, while British Ice Skating has cancelled November’s figure skating and short-track speedskating British Championships.
Victoria Rogers, a Great Britain coach behind the “Back on the Ice” campaign, said: “They say the virus is spread more in cold temperatures, but ice rinks are no colder than the cheese aisle in Tesco.
“Ski centres are eight degrees colder [than rinks] and they’ve been back open a week now. It’s ridiculous. I absolutely think some club and recreational skaters won’t come back after this.”
Michelle Draper, the chief executive of British Ice Skating, whose membership is 80 per cent female, said ice rinks were spending thousands of pounds a week on maintenance costs and she warned: “This is putting real pressure on a highparticipation female sport. We’ve had no justification from the Government
at all as to why rinks couldn’t reopen in a Covid-secure way.”
Kayla Fry, 17, a champion junior figure skater from Gravesend who normally trains six days a week at the Lee Valley Ice Centre, has had to adapt her training with off-ice skates.
“I’m really angry. I’ve been forced to train in car parks and any other open spaces I can find. It’s so confusing how a trampoline park can open, how pubs can open, but ice rinks can’t.
“In a pub, you’ve got a lot of people in such a confined space to the point where social distancing is hardly being practised. The ice rink where I train is not a leisure facility, we are our own building.”
With her father having had to shield during the pandemic after undergoing heart surgery this year, Fry admits she would “wear a mask, gloves, absolutely anything” just to get back on the ice.
Christian Newberry, a former British champion and now national coach, says three of his competitive skaters, based in London, have even travelled to Europe just to access rinks.
“This government is making our children travel abroad,” he said. “Not to allow children on the ice is wrong, when they’ve already lost so much in their lives.
“We have had three Olympic champions, John Curry, Robin Cousins and [Jayne] Torvill and [Christopher] Dean. To not think of us as a sport makes no sense to me.”
Tough times: Medal-winning GB junior figure skater Kayla Fry has resorted to training with off-ice skates in car parks because she cannot get access to the rink she normally uses six days a week