Scotland’s top figure skaters are ready to take on the sport’s best at this week’s World Figure Skating Championships in Japan.
Lewis Gibson from Prestwick, will compete in the ice dance category of the competition in Saitama with his partner Lilah Fear, while Dundee skater Natasha McKay will represent Great Britain in the ladies’ solo category.
Competition begins today, when McKay will take to the ice for her short programme.
Both she and Gibson said they were really looking forward to performing in Japan, where figure skating is a major spectator sport and tickets for the near sell-out championships change hands for hundreds of pounds online.
Gibson and Fear, who will skate their short programme on Friday, last year competed in the country’s NHK Trophy, part of the prestigious Grand Prix series, where they picked up hundreds of new fans.
The ice dancers finished sixth in the European Championships in January, but will face increased competition from top North American skaters such as Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue in the Worlds.
Current World Championship gold medallists and European Champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, from France, will also be taking part.
Gibson revealed that the couple have not made any major changes to their programmes since the European championships in Minsk, Belarus, where they debuted changes to the first section of their rhythm dance programme. The alterations helped add five points to their score for that section.
“At the World Championships, we are really hoping to skate two of our best performances,” said Gibson. “We are keen to finish the season strongly, especially in front of a Japanese audience.
“At the NHK trophy in November, we received a standing ovation for our disco free dance, and just can’t wait to perform for such a giving audience.”
Fear added: “We are thrilled to be returning to Japan and hope to entertain the crowd and have fun ourselves.”
Ahead of her first foray on to the ice today, McKay told The Scotsman that her aim was to skate cleanly and qualify in the top 24, which will allow her to take part in the free skate on Friday.
She said: “I am feeling very relaxed and confident going to the championships.
“Training has been going very well and I am looking forward to getting out there.
“My main goal is to skate a clean short programme, which is exactly how I have been training. That is really all that I can control, not the outcome.
“My aim is to finish the short programme in the top 24 places and qualify for the free programme on Friday.” She added: “I am looking forward to competing in Japan.
“The stadium looks awesome and the fans are always fantastic.”
Great Britain has sent a full team to the championships, with Swindon-based duo Zoe Jones – who previously trained as a singles skater at Ayr ice rink under coach Joy Sutcliffe – and Christopher Boyadji competing in the pairs category and Sheffield’s PJ Hallam in the mens’ singles competition.