Championship fans’ skate expectations

Practice time for skaters competing in the European Figure Skating Championships at the Motorpoint Arena.
Practice time for skaters competing in the European Figure Skating Championships at the Motorpoint Arena.
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AT times it was tricky enough standing upright – and that was just while waiting outside.

Skating fans were buffeted by strong winds as they queued outside to catch an early glimpse of some of the international stars of the European Figure Skating Championships, taking place at the Arena in Sheffield this week.

Among the skating enthusiasts to take advantage of free tickets to the competition’s practice session yesterday were John Bartolome and his daughter Elizabeth, 13, from Beauchief.

Although regular skaters themselves at iceSheffield in Attercliffe, they might be skipping a few sessions - after John took a tumble on the rink last week.

“I broke my arm ice skating four days ago,” said John, 58. “I fell incorrectly - so we’ve come here to see some other people do it properly!”

It’s the first time in 20 years that one of figure skating’s showpiece events has been hosted in the UK.

First in the queue for free tickets, ahead of doors opening at 10.30am, was school lunchtime supervisor Jenny De Freitas.

“I’ve always liked watching ice skating on the TV and thought this was a nice opportunity to see it for real,” said the 37-year-old from Meadowhead. “I’m not that good at skating myself. I prefer to sit and watch it.”

Also there for a rare opportunity to catch some of the world’s best from 39 countries was Joanne Maurer, from Handsworth, with her daughters Francesca and Natasha and some of their friends.

All admitted they were looking to take some tips back to their own skating sessions at iceSheffield.

Elizabeth, a pupil at Sheffield High School, said: “I just like seeing the leotards, the outfits, and backwards skating. I hope they’re going to do some of that!”

Fan and skater Ruth Newsome, a physiotherapist from Penistone, was there to watch the action with her personal assistant pal Tanya Webster, from Wharncliffe Side. She said: “It’s a massive event. It’s really exciting it’s in Sheffield.”

The fans’ dedication to the sport was matched only by those on the ice inside the arena, where from noon young male skaters warmed up and showed off some of the routines they hope might score them a medal when the action gets underway for real today.