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’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Ice Skat­ing By Fiona To­mas

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

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