Clayton-le-Woods couple find love in a cold climate

A young couple from Clayton-le-Woods have forged a successful partnership on and off the ice

David King had his proposal of marriage all worked out. The setting couldn’t have been more romantic and, as he and Stacey Kemp approached the top of a mountain overlooking Vancouver, he prepared to pop the question.

Sadly, when they got there they were shrouded in grey fog so thick they could barely see each other let alone the twinkling lights of the city below. It wasn’t exactly what he had in mind and David decided to postponehis mission.

‘When it finally happened it was still pretty memorable,’ says David. The couple had just taken part in one of the most exhilarating days of their lives - the closing ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics - and was the day complete when David proposed on a hotel balcony and Stacey accepted.

The couple, based in Clayton-le-Woods near Leyland, were the first pair in almost two decades to follow in the Olympic tracks of Torville and Dean and they came 16th - very creditable for such a young couple. ‘It was the best performance we’ve ever put in,’ says Preston-born Stacey, aged 22. ‘We couldn’t have done more.’

David adds: ‘Just to qualify and get there was the experience of a lifetime. So few couples actually get that far.’

Qualification was the culmination of childhood dreams for both skaters, who first met at the rink in Blackburn. They had been skating as individuals until their coaches decided they would made an excellent match. As it turned out there was no Torville and Dean-style ‘will they or won’t they’ romantic chatter - they clicked on and off the ice.

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‘This is our eighth season together,’ says David. ‘In that time we have been British champions six times and we are in the skater’s hall of fame, we were 13th in the world championships and sixth in Europe.’

With the next Winter Olympics almost four years away, all focus - and Government funding - has been directed towards London 2012. ‘For several years we have been able to train in Poland where facilities and coaching are at an extremely high level,’ says David, the 26-year-old son of a jeweller from Wigton in Cumbria.

‘We were lucky enough to receive �32,000 a year funding but that has all stopped and everything had been diverted to the London Olympics. It’s pretty frustrating and means we have had to leave Poland and we are now looking for sponsorship. It’s hard going approaching companies in the current climate. We may do some tuition and take

part in ice shows to bolster our finances.’ The performances we see on television combine elegance with athleticism, but they’re the culmination of gruelling and often repetitive training. They can practice up to 120 ice lifts a day, spend hours in the gym and on the running track. There’s no room for slacking and injuries are a constant threat.

‘The level of athleticism is incredible and you need to combine that with total dedication,’ says David. ‘Over 30 million people watched Torville and Dean at the Olympics so there is an appetite out there for the sport, which doesn’t explain why it’s not funded adequately.

‘Ice skating has been out of the public eye for a while and we wish more could be done to encourage young people to take part. You often get groups of kids coming in and they can be pretty rowdy at the barrier until they see a few lifts and realise what is involved.’

The funding crisis means Stacey and David have yet to name the day. Let’s hope they don’t have to wait until the day they collect their medals at 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

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