Robin Cousins

Robin Cousins new (2)

By Jeremy Miles

Last week's Dancing on Ice semi-final spun the reality show to new heights - Chris Fountain scored the first perfect sixes of the series, Suzanne Shaw impressed with her stirring solo, and Zaraah Abrahams beat all the odds to make it through to this Sunday's final at the expense of Gareth Gates.

It's nail-biting stuff and viewers in the Bournemouth and Poole area - always cool customers when it comes to taking it to the brink on the rink - are likely to be among the most fervent fans.T

The area may not have had a full-scale ice rink for years, but it certainly knows how to get its skates on. The temporary ice rink brought in for high days and holidays at the BIC does a roaring trade and there are always people slip-sliding away with considerable glee down at Poole Park. There's a glorious history locally too.

The late-lamented Westover Road Ice Rink was, for decades, considered one of Bournemouth's prime attractions. It not only provided an attraction for residents and holidaymakers, but indirectly shaped the future of both competitive skating and ice dance as theatre. For it was there, back in 1964, a young boy destined to become one of the biggest names in skating took his first tentative steps onto the ice.

For seven-year-old Robin Cousins, who was on a family holiday from his home in Bristol, it was a revelation. "I loved it," he would tell me years later. "Being on the ice just instantly felt right, it felt fun. It was just one of those being in the right place at the right time kind of moments."

Cousins would of course go on to become an Olympic gold medallist and later one of the biggest movers and shakers in the world of ice dance.

He's never forgotten where he started and to this day says: "Bournemouth will always have a special place in my heart.

"I would love to find a venue in Bournemouth where you could recreate what was there when I was growing up in the '60s.

"Somewhere you could have a public ice rink in the day and the big old Ice Follies shows in the evening."

But despite Cousins' on-going dream, local skaters say  they have to travel to Gosport, Basingstoke or Guildford to find a substantial rink. In other words it doesn't look like much is likely to happen in Bournemouth now or in the near future.

Just a couple of weeks ago the company behind the temporary rink at the BIC asked for help creating a permanent facility in the town. However, Bournemouth council said they didn't feel it would be economically viable to open all year round.

It was, they argued, a seasonal attraction the current popularity of which was largely down to TV shows.

Which brings us back to tomorrow night's Dancing on Ice final. It will find the final three contestants choosing their favourite dances to perform again, before taking to the air in spectacular flying routines.

The two with the highest number of votes from the public will then take on the ultimate challenge - to skate the Bolero in front of ice legends Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.

Some reckon that Hollyoaks hunk Fountain has it in the bag as King of the Rink because he used to play ice hockey, but he insists he hasn't had an unfair advantage.

"I only skated as an ice hockey player for a year when I was 15," he explains.

"I think my balance on the ice would've given me an advantage to start with, but with regards to the actual skating, it's a completely different style."

Former professional skater Karen Barber, a judge and coach on the show, backs him up.

"It's been an advantage and disadvantage," she says.

"Ice hockey is different to figure skating and he had to learn to skate in different blades.

"You could argue that Zaraah and Suzanne have an advantage with their dance background, while Steve Backley and Greg Rusedski had a sports history which helps in this competition. It’s a new skill for all of them.” 

(March 2008).

© Jeremy Miles 2016