DANCING On Ice head coach Karen Barber is back on the judging panel for the live tour from this weekend at Sheffield Motorpoint Arena - but she’s still not talking to “nasty” Jason Gardiner after their infamous on-screen bust up, The Diary can reveal.
The couple nearly came to blows when TV judge Gardiner, who isn’t on the tour, slated her expertise.
Karen, aged 49, was seen with tears streaming down her face after war hero Johnson Beharry VC, who suffered serious head injuries in Iraq, failed to get the points she felt he deserved during a routine
She felt the judges had marked him too low, to which Gardiner snapped back: ‘If your opinion still mattered you’d be on the panel.’
Her voice quavering, she accused him of being ‘offensive’ after his personal slur on her and in a war of words told him: ‘You bring so little to this panel’
Now, as she prepares to take her seat back on the judging panel for the tour - alongside King of the Jungle Christopher Biggins and skating gold medallist Robin Cousins - she says it may have been good TV but the face-off was for real.
“We haven’t spoken since,’’ she told The Star, during a break from her dual role duties as head coach on the live tour, as the cast rehearse in Sheffield.
“The man insulted me. It was absolutely for real.
“He took away what my position was about. In other words he dismissed me and I wasn’t going to accept that.
“It wasn’t about TV. It was about me standing up for myself.
“We have a very mixed relationship. We have done every series of Dancing On Ice together, including the Australian version. I have to say we have had good times. But no, we’ve not spoken since. He tried to apologise. It was given with one hand and taken away with the other.
“What he says, if you take away how he says things, he’s got some really good and relevant points. But it became very personal to me.”
Of her role as a judge she said: “I was really excited about the new role they created for me on the TV show and it came out of the blue. It enhanced what I was doing already, which is standing up and protecting the celebrities and the skaters against negative comments.
“But I enjoy both roles. I’m very comfortable judging. I have over 40-years experience.”
She knows the skaters better than anyone - so who is going to skate off with the show on tour, when the audience get to text vote for their favourite to dance the Bolero every night?
Last year’s TV champ Hayley Tammaddon is back, with this year’s runner up Laura Hamilton and third place Chloe Madeley in with a shout - so Karen reckons it will be a “Battle of the Babes” to beat current TV champ, Eastender Sam Attwater.
n Dancing On Ice Live is at Sheffield Motorpoint Arena Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10. Tickets, which may be subject to a booking fee, are £32.50 to £67.50. Buy in person, call 0114 256 5656, book online at www.motorpointarena.co.uk or www.arenaticketshop.co.uk