Looking to the Future
By, Sergio Burns
It is, dare I say it, almost magical, almost incredible to watch. Carefully choreographed jumps, spins, landings, all undertaken while moving at high speed on ice. We gasp at the audacity, bravery, the skill, the ability as each mirrors the other, and then synchronised in rehearsed movements, they dance across the ice in a free flowing sweep.
I am at Ayr ice rink with Lewis Gibson one half, with Lilah Fear, of the reigning British ice dance champions (Lilah Fear is not with us today). It was Lewis and Lilah’s second victory having also secured the title in Sheffield in 2017, while finishing a credible second in 2018.
“I started ice skating when I was 11 years old,” Lewis spoke about his introduction to the sport. “It was after watching Dancing on Ice. There was something about it that I just thought was fun. I came to this ice rink in Ayr and did their ‘learn to skate’ programme.”
At the time, he tells me, he was playing football, and his father was then a youth coach at Kilmarnock. But he was immediately captivated, and his love of skating soon overtook his passion for football. Since then Lewis’s skating has played a major role in his life, he eat, sleeps and breathes the ice.
“I started here,” he reminded me as he looked out across the rink. “I skated here for years and then I started using the other local rinks like the Magnum Leisure centre… then there was Auchenharvie Stevenston. They have got a great ice rink… it was a great facility. So I skated in Ayrshire and then…I was doing singles skating so that is with the jumps, spins etc until I was about 15. The British Skating Federation…encouraged [me] to try ice dance. I was contacted by a few different skaters. I had a few try-outs and met my current partner Lilah Fear.”
They make a great team together and as Lewis developed as a skater so Ayrshire was unable to hold him. He knew that to take the next step to develop as a top skater it would mean, reluctantly but necessarily, moving out of the area.
“Lilah is from London,” He explained. “At the end of November, 2015, I moved from Scotland to London [though] not based there anymore. We…split our time between London, and Montreal, Canada, because she had connections with coaches, and it is the best skating school in the world in Montreal, and actually the guest coaches are here: Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.”
Silver medalists from the 2018 winter Olympic games, Papadakis and Cizeron are also four time world champions and five times European champions consecutively.
So Lewis, and his partner, Lilah are working with these elite athletes to improve, develop and look to the future and a place at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Now Lewis is back in Ayr to work with local youngsters in a masterclass seminar. Keen to give something back to the sport, Lewis had returned to help coach and encourage the next crop of Ayrshire and Scottish skaters
“It is happening for two days here in Scotland,” He said of the masterclass. “Then the same seminar set up will run in London for another two days on Wednesday. Here, at Ayr Ice Rink it is from 7am until 3pm both days.”
For Lewis Gibson it is, to use that effectively appropriate cliché: a labour of love.
“I have been given the opportunity to go to the European, the World championships,” Lewis told us candidly. “So, I get to see and I get to train with skaters of our level, world class and elite. You know for me I started at 11 and it is not that long ago. I can remember what I thought at that point. Actually, I can remember being inspired by skaters and….