I started skating at Ryde Arena when I was only 7 years old. It soon became my second home for the next decade and I probably spent more time there than my actual home! I was quickly welcomed into the tight-knit family there and once I found my footing and passed my first NISA tests, with the help of my then coach Terri Smith, I proceeded to join the juvenile synchro team which was the Wight Crystals at the time. With that team, I was able to add many medals to my collection, winning British Championships several times and travelling internationally with similar successes. Eventually, I was able to join the Wight Diamonds (the novice team at the time) which gave me the wonderful opportunity to travel to Russia where we returned with silver medals in hand! After becoming an age where I could join the elite team, Wight Jewels, the successes continued. Training at Ryde Arena with my teammates 4 days a week before and after school allowed us to become multiple times British Champions and gave me an experience many could only hope to dream of; competing at the Junior World Championships in Sweden. Skating at Ryde Arena allowed me the chance to travel to so many different countries and experience the world and its culture, something I am truly grateful for.
However, my career as a synchro skater was only a minor one compared to my own solo figure skating career. While I trained 4 days a week for synchro, I trained 5 days a week for my own individual career (and yes, that included the dreaded 5am on ice Sunday mornings)! I have been a familiar face for many during annual Christmas shows and galas at the rink throughout the years, learning many important attributes and skills such as teamwork and responsibility through the hard work and dedication it took to bring fairy tales such as The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland to life on the ice, being cast as the main role in both shows was a huge responsibility and a great honour. Whenever the rink held more elite shows such as Professionals on Ice, I was given the opportunity to skate in the show as a guest, giving me unparalleled experience which would serve me well in the future.
Representing the island as an individual and as a team was an adventure for sure, and while I have had ups and downs in my skating career and in life in general, Ryde Arena and its staff and the little skating family were always there to guide the way and help me grow as both a person and a skater. The challenges I had overcome at the rink taught me so many important values that every child should learn as they’ve helped me achieve all my successes (both sporting and academic). As a figure skater, I was one of the very few to have passed all my NISA skating tests on the island and claimed a little piece of history by becoming the first Isle of Wight representative on NISA’s Regional Development Pathway Team. My skating family then helped me collect over 80 medals and 12 trophies and supported me through my selection to complete an Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence programme for skating which I had to juggle with my other commitments at the time; regular solo training, regular synchro training, ballet exams, singing exams and 4 AS and A2 levels! Many non-skaters didn’t understand my love for the beautiful sport nor my love for my home away from home and the wonderful people who trained there with me and were quick to call me crazy for trying to achieve so much, saying what I wanted was impossible, that I couldn’t be successful in both my sport and academia.
Had I listened to them and not continued onwards with my obstinate determination that my sport had blessed me with, I would never be where I am now. I’m currently in my first year at the University of Abertay Dundee studying Forensic Sciences, continuing my figure skating training with Olympic coaches Simon and Debi Briggs (who also currently coach the top 3 senior ladies and the silver medalist in junior ladies in Great Britain) and in December last year under my new coaches I finally achieved a long-term dream that I had since I first started competing when I was 9; competing in the British Championships. I came 14th overall in junior ladies which is a great result for my first championships.
Without the support of Ryde Arena and everyone who frequented there I could never have made it as far as I have and my time there developing as an athlete and as a person has taught me that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and put the hard work in, no matter how many people try to tell you it’s impossible, it really isn’t. So, thank you Ryde Arena and everyone who loved it as much as I did for changing my life, I can’t imagine life without you all. And that is why my heart breaks to know that other islanders won’t be able to achieve the life changing and inspiring opportunities I have been so blessed to have. A rink provides the ideal platform to challenge yourself and become a strong and powerful person and in this era, teaching children to believe in themselves and work hard to achieve their goals is such a powerful and important thing. Ryde Arena did all of that and more for me, and it has the potential to do it for many more to come, if it is given the ability to do so.