Nottingham figure skaters Olivia Smart and Joseph Buckland aimed for national glory at the 2014 British Figure skating championships this weekend at iceSheffield. Five days of competitions vaunted many of figure skating’s most gifted competitors across the UK in attempts to claim the title. Smart and partner Buckland were bookies favourites to win the Senior Ice Dance programme after the absence of reigning champions Nick Buckland and partner Penny Coomes, who were busy competing for the NHK trophy in Osaka, Japan.
The British pair skated in unfamiliar territory this year after competing in the senior ranks for the first time in their careers. The reason for their ascension into senior ranks may be as a result of their decorated 2013 season. Claiming the Junior National Ice Dance championship, placing first place in the National Ice Skating Association (NISA) August IJS and clinching a top ten spot at the 2014 World Junior Championships capped a remarkably mature season, especially considering the age of the skaters (Olivia Smart, 17, Joe Buckland, 22). The favourites lived up to expectation and were crowned National Ice Dance champions for the first time in front of the iceSheffield spectators. The title means that the crown stays in the Buckland family, after Joseph’s brother Nick finished top in the 2013’s Championships with partner Penny Coomes. The Buckland brothers’ spirited competitiveness surely factors towards their recent skating success of late.
Smart and Buckland were amongst a vast array of talent on display during the five days of NISA’s competitions. Day one commenced with the Basic Novice Men’s and Ladies events (having been added to the events this year), where Greg Smith from Aberdeen displayed the most salient performance, ultimately accomplishing 33.80 points and securing a gold medal. The respective Ladies event began with 34 competitors and was concluded with a close top five finish, where a score of 34.23 was enough for Elizabeth Matcham to skate her way to gold.
Claiming gold in the Junior Ladies competition on day two was Danielle Harrison of Dundee, with a score of 110.90. The final result of the Men’s competition saw Graham Newbury of Lee Valley soar away with a robust display and score (164.62), which rewarded him with the gold. Dundee skaters subjugated the podium in the Senior Ladies Competition with Karly Robertson winning Gold and the National Title with a score of 127.61. Michelle Callison secured Silver with a score of 99.44 and Natasha McKay claimed the Bronze medal with a score of 96.85.
While Olivia Smart and Joseph Buckland may certainly be contended as fan favourites during the five-day spell of competition, the introduction of the additional novice events certainly gave the crowd their money’s worth this year. Alistair Wilson, technical director at the NISA of Great Britain and Northern Ireland explained, “The level of competition has been outstanding this year and we saw a great demonstration of the talent that exists amongst the UK’s top skaters”. A reason for this potential growth observed in this year’s championships may boil down to the introduction of the Basic Novice Ladies and Men’s singles programmes. “We are glad that we introduced the new events, as we have some superb talent here in the UK and most competitions are wide open, making them even more gripping”. The additional events included in UK figure skating programmes appear to have ignited NISA’s strategy of evolving the sport in the wake of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
How might the National Ice Skating Associating (NISA) continue to accelerate the evolution of the sport in the UK?