HUNDREDS of ice skaters from around the world are preparing to descend on Sheffield for one of the biggest events in their sporting calendar.
The elite skaters will be competing in front of thousands of fans at the European Figure Skating Championships, happening at the Motorpoint Arena from Monday.
Around 200 figure skaters from nearly 40 countries will be showing off their skills on the ice in ladies’, men’s, pairs’ and dance disciplines.
And among the competitors will be 22-year-old South Yorkshire sportsman Jason Thompson - who around the year trains just minutes away from the arena at iceSheffield in Attercliffe.
Jason will be taking to the rink to represent Great Britain, competing against Europe’s finest skaters in the men’s free skate category.
The skater won the British Championship men’s singles title last year, and is now gearing up for his first-ever European Championship.
He said he is hoping to make it through the preliminary rounds to go for the big titles later in the competition.
“Being selected is a dream come true as this was one of the main goals I set out to achieve when I first started skating,” said Jason, who was born in Canklow, Rotherham.
“It makes all my hard work seem worthwhile and I feel ready to do my country proud.”
Jason added: “I hope I can do well and perhaps get a top-20 position.”
Crowds will also be treated to displays from Olympic champion and three-time world champion Evgeni Plushenko, representing Russia.
To qualify for the European Championships, skaters normally need to gain a minimum score in an International Skating Union competition during the current or previous season.
Plushenko has not competed since winning gold at the Vancouver Winter Olympics over five years ago - but the union has relaxed the usual regulations following a special request from his home country.
Keith Horton, chief executive of the National Ice Skating Association, said it will be ‘very exciting’ to see the international skaters compete in Sheffield.
“The event will no doubt produce many fantastic performances, and provide an excellent showcase of figure skating for the spectators here in the UK and around the world,” he said.
Tickets for the championships are available from the arena box office, online at www.motorpointarenasheffield.co.uk or by calling 0114 256 5656.
Log on to www.europeans2012.co.uk for more information.