It takes grit and passion to live out your dream
Olympic figure skaters have run a mile to inspire young athletes to achieve their dreams. MEGAN TITLEY spoke to Stacey Kemp and David King to find out what it takes to reach the heady heights of success
When two-time Olympians and 10-time British champions Stacey, 28, and David, 32, were invited to take part in the Westminster Mile along with other Olympic-level athletes they jumped at the chance.
Joining fellow Olympians, they donned their competition kit to run what is billed as the most iconic mile in the world - starting on The Mall and finishing in front of Buckingham Palace.
“British Olympians from many eras and of all ages came together to run the Westminster Mile to inspire young athletes,” says David, who started skating when he was nine.
“Everyone came with inspiring stories of their personal journeys and struggles on how they achieved their dreams and goals to become a British Olympian.
“Stacey ran at eight and a half months pregnant to show her support. The oldest Olympian was 100 years old.”
The Vitality Westminster Mile was launched by London Marathon Events in partnership with Westminster City Council in 2013 as a legacy event from the 2012 Olympic Games and this year’s run in London took place on May 28.
Olympians of all ages ran in the event all wearing the Olympic kit in the games which they competed in, keen to spur on budding athletes to strive for their personal best in their sports.
“It really was an inspirational day,” says Stacey, who grew up and went to school in Clayton-Le-Woods.
“Listening to all the stories was fascinating for everyone to share in.
“To be part of this event and putting our Olympic kit on again was a proud moment and we were so happy to encourage young people to strive to be the best they can be no matter their age or situation.”
Stacey, herself, decided she wanted to make it to the Olympics at the tender age of six after she saw the games for the first time.
The former Leyland St Mary’s Technology College student, who also attended St Catherine’s RC Primary School, in Farrington, fell in love with figure skating when she watched the great Ukrainian solo skater Oksana Baiul win gold at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
“I saw her in her little pink dress and I have just dreamt of being that little girl,” says Stacey. “And at Sochi David let me wear the little pink dress.
“My dream when I first started skating was to go to the Olympics. To actually live your dream is incredible.”
But it was not a sprinkle of fairy dust and a wave of a wand that built the duo up to perform at Olympic standard. David and Stacey have put themselves through years of gruelling training and hard work to achieve their dreams - competing in the Winter Olympics in Vancover and in Sochi.
Stacey was taking lessons at Blackburn Ice Arena when David, who had begun skating as a nine year old in Dumfries, joined the coaching sessions when he was 19 years old.
It was there that their stars aligned and in 2003 they were paired together and sent on their adventures first to train in Poland and then to the USA.
And while their partnership developed on ice, romance blossomed away from the ice rink.
Stacey was 14 years old when she and David moved away from family and relocated to Poland to continue their training. They spent four years in Torun, Poland and another four years after that in Florida, America.
To be on top of their game for the Olympics the figure skaters are up at dawn every day for an hour of ballet training or practicing the lifts they perform on ice.
This is followed by two hours on ice rehearsing one of their routines with all the elements and tricks that they will perform.
After a three-minute lunch break they do an hour of jumping on ice and spend another two hours running through their second routine.
To finish off the day they spend a final hour working on their fitness at the gym.
Stacey says that success comes from a mixture of “determination and a lot of sacrifices and a belief that you can achieve your goal”.
A passion for the sport is vital but there have also been times when Stacey has wanted to escape home.
“I just love it - gliding across the ice you feel like you are flying with no worries in the world.
“But so much comes down to the way you think. There are so many times you can say I can’t do it. Being away from home sometimes you just want to go back and be normal. Skype has been a life-saver for us and both of our parents have managed to come to see us perform in the Olympics.”
The duo, who tied the knot at Hoghton Tower in April 2016, got engaged at their first Winter Olympic Games in 2010 in Vancover, Canada where they finished 16th.
They have competed together for Great Britain all over the world for the past 14 years.
At the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia they placed 10th during their segment of the team trophy with the UK team pulling in with the same result. In between contracts they return to the UK to teach and are currently coaching in Dumfries. David is also working fulltime as a goldsmith at his father’s jewellery shop in Cumbria.
The couple are expecting their first baby on Wednesday, June 28. They were due to skate at the Hot Ice show in Blackpool this year but plans changed when Stacey fell pregnant. We have a few more skating events lined up but nothing set in stone until after baby King arrives,” said Stacey. “We have considered the next Olympics in 2018 in South Korea but it’s too soon with a newborn.”
Asked if their passion for ice will mean they teach baby King to skate Stacey says: “Oh I’m sure it’ll be on the ice pretty soon.”