Monday, 23 May 2022

My Olympic figure skating dream

My Olympic figure skating dream

A GIRL from Henley won a gold medal at the British Figure Skating Championships.

Charlotte Hodgkinson, 14, took the junior pairs category with her skating partner Elliot Appleby, 19, at the event in Sheffield last month.

It was the duo’s second competition since they began skating together just over a year ago.

Now Charlotte hopes to compete in a future Winter Olympics.

She said: “Winning was indescribable. It was amazing and put a big smile on my face.”

All the competitors had to give two performances from which their scores were combined and Charlotte and Elliot top-scored in both.

One of their performances was to In My Heart by Moby and lasted about two minutes and 30 seconds. For this, they wore matching black and blue outfits.

The other performance was to Torn by Nathan Lanier and lasted about three minutes and 30 seconds. For this Charlotte wore a sparkly pink leotard and Elliot wore a black shirt with glitter.

Charlotte, a pupil at Gillotts School in Henley, said: “Taking part was more exciting than nerve-wracking because we had only just started pairs and had not seen the other pairs before.

“I like to go into a competition with a positive attitude and, as my coach said, we had done everything we could, we needed to rely on our training.

“We finished skating and got off the ice to sit in the ‘kiss and cry’ [booth] for about a minute. We knew we’d won when the scores came through.”

After their victory, the pair were asked to represent Britain at the Nebelhorn Trophy, an international competition held in the
Netherlands.

“We’ve also been offered competitions in Germany, Italy and Belarus,” said Charlotte.

“We’ve also been put forward for a pairs training camp in Berlin. It was a massive achievement just to be put forward for that as it’s 10 days of intense training.”

Charlotte, who lives in St Andrew’s Road with her parents Duncan and Rachael and has an older brother called Jack, has been skating since she was two.

She used to be a member of Kennylands Gymnastics in Sonning Common and is now an assistant coach for Vision Gymnastics at the Christ Church Centre in Reading Road, Henley.

Charlotte said: “At the age of two my mum would take me ice skating on bob skates, which help you to basically walk on the ice, and I loved it.

“From the ages of four to eight I was in the squad for gymnastics and I focused on that.

“My mum sent me there to burn off some energy as I was an energetic child.

“I started watching Dancing on Ice and Strictly Come Dancing and I begged my mum to take me to ice skating lessons. It was the lifts that appealed to me the most. When I was eight I needed to pick between the ice skating and gymnastics as they both took up a lot of time and I chose ice skating.”

Charlotte started going to the ice rink in Slough once a week for lessons and advanced quickly.

When the Slough rink closed for refurbishment, she switched to the one in Bracknell and met her current coach, Peter
Christmas-Kjaer.

Charlotte said: “I started skating with him four days a week and the training time just increased from there.

“The Bracknell rink then closed during the first lockdown so my coach and I moved back to Slough, which is where I skate now.

“I love it and really enjoy myself. I love the jumps, spins and lifts. I had podiumed at some competitions before lockdown when I was about 10 or 11.”

During the first coronavirus lockdown in Spring 2020, Mr Christmas-Kjaer trained her and Elliot via Zoom with another coach called John Wicker, who works in Romford, Essex.

The men then decided they wanted to train together as pair coaches, which is how Charlotte met Elliot, who is from Wivenhoe in Essex.

Elliot has been skating since the age of six and is currently on a gap year from university so he can focus on his skating.

Charlotte, who also plays for Henley Hockey Club, said: “I had been to Romford a few times for some lessons with John.

“During this time I said I was interested in pairs and he said he had someone in mind. Elliot and I then had a skate through and it just worked. It was so good instantly.

“It was three days and I remember I worked so hard as it requires so much focus and it was tiring by the end. I was over the moon when they said the pair worked.

“Solo is all about jumps and spins but in pairs you have the other person obviously so you need to work on timing but it comes naturally to us.

“You also have lifts and spins that are done together so it makes it more difficult.”

In the second lockdown in November 2020 Charlotte and Elliot had to train at an elite hub in Romford until March 2021.

She did two days of solo training per week followed by three or four days of pairs training.

She also takes part in training off the ice, including co-ordination exercises for spins and strengthening her muscles.

Charlotte said: “It’s difficult to balance it all sometimes but if I ever miss school work I always catch up in my own time and when I’m not skating I’m going shopping and seeing my friends.

“My exams next year will be very difficult as training will ramp up at the same time but school is very supportive.”

She now hopes to reach the European and world championships in pairs figure skating.

Charlotte said: “It’s big maybe but I hope one day to qualify for the Olympics.”

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