I am where I am today because I had the opportunity to skate at Ryde Arena
My skating journey began in London when I was 4 years old, and I was very grateful to be able to continue it when I moved to the Isle of Wight in 1999. Ryde Arena has been somewhere I have cherished and appreciated for the past 18 years, and without it I wouldn't be where I am today. I would train at Ryde Arena almost everyday, whether it was before school or after. It was a place to escape and be myself with friend’s all sharing a love for skating.
In 2004, I tried synchronised skating for the first time with the Island's first synchronised skating team, put together by Terri Smith. It was something I quickly fell in love with. Over the years, the Island's synchro teams grew vaster, and continued to develop. I am very grateful to have been a part of the IOW's synchro journey and the teams' success over the years. I'm proud to have represented Great Britain with the Wight Jewels at Junior Worlds and to have been 4 times British Champions with them. Ryde arena was where we trained together. It was where we put in many hours of hard work and early mornings to develop our team. Being able to step on the ice there with teammates who were also best friends whilst doing something I truly love was incredible.
In 2010, some of the Wight Jewels, including myself, had the opportunity to go to Budapest for a training camp with Andrea Dohany, coach of Sweden's Team Surprise, 6 times World Synchronised Skating Champions. We learnt so much from our week there and were very fortunate to stay in contact with Andrea, which lead to the whole team going to Sweden to train with her in 2012. That same season we went to Sweden was my last season with the Jewels, as I would be too old to continue the following season. A couple of years before this I had thought about the possibility of joining a senior team in a different country. It had never crossed my mind to ask Andrea about joining Surprise in Sweden, as I didn't think I would have a chance! In 2013, the Jewels went to Sweden to train with Andrea again and I decided to go with them again purely out of desire to learn more from such an influential and knowledgeable synchro coach. Andrea asked me then why I hadn't thought about coming to Sweden to skate and from then on all I could think about was how incredible that would be, and there simply wasn't an option for me to go anywhere else to continue with synchro.
In April 2014 I went to Courmayeur, Italy to watch the World Synchronised Skating Championships and it was here that I spoke with Andrea again. She told me to come to Sweden and try out for a week in May and see what I think. That week in May came around so quickly and I was both nervous and excited to train with Team Surprise. It was a challenging week, but I knew right away it was what I wanted and what I had to do! Andrea told me it would take a lot of hard work from me, but I wanted nothing more than to work hard and be part of the world's most successful synchro team.
I have now been skating with Team Surprise for 3 seasons and I am so proud of what I have achieved. It has been an amazing experience to live in a different country, learn a new language and to travel round the world to compete. I skated as a reserve during my first two seasons, but this made me work harder and I trained lots of extra hours to try and be the best I could be. In many ways, being a reserve helped me develop as a skater as you never knew which place you would be skating in when someone was away, injured or sick. It meant having to learn 16 places, all of which are different, and also hop in as soon as someone wasn’t there, without having time to fully prepare to skate on that place. It was tough, but it helped me grow as a synchro skater. Finally in my third season I got a fixed place! All the hard work had finally paid off and I got to experience the most incredible thing I have ever done, which is competing at The World Synchronized Skating Championships. It is a moment and a feeling I will never forget. 1000s of hours of practice and it was all worth it for those minutes I got to stand on the ice in front of a huge arena, doing the thing I love most with a team I have looked up to for many years. It really was a dream come true. However it would never have been possible without Ryde Arena and of course the amazing, Terri Smith.
Without Ryde Arena I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to continue skating when I moved to the Island. I wouldn’t have been introduced to Synchronised Skating and fallen in love with it. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to train in Sweden and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to join Team Surprise. I don’t want the young skaters of our island to miss out on all the amazing opportunities that can come from skating. There is so much talent and love for the sport and all the skaters and potential new skaters on the island deserve the opportunity to be able to train. I am the person I am today and am where I am today because I had the opportunity to skate at Ryde Arena. So I will be forever thankful to Ryde Arena for all the wonderful memories and opportunities it has given me and I hope that it will soon reopen and continue to do the same for more people.