Dundee pairs team to join fellow Scots at European Figure Skating Championships

A new pairs skating team are to compete in the European Figure Skating Championships today as part of a four-strong Scottish contingent representing Team GB.

Anastasia Vaipan-Law and Luke Digby, pictured here with coaches Simon and Jason Briggs, will compete in the European Figure Skating Championships this week.
Anastasia Vaipan-Law and Luke Digby, pictured here with coaches Simon and Jason Briggs, will compete in the European Figure Skating Championships this week.

The championships – which is a warm-up for the Winter Olympics for three members of the British team – is set to begin today in Tallinn, Estonia. Four out of the six-strong GB team are Scottish, with three training at the prestigious Ice Dundee hub under coaches Simon and Debbie Briggs.

New pairs team Anastasia Vaipan-Law and Luke Digby, also based at Dundee Ice Arena, have been drafted in at the last minute as alternates after British Ice Skating’s original selection for the event, Zoe Jones and her partner Christopher Boyardji, were forced to pull out when Jones tested positive for Covid at the weekend.

Meanwhile, Lewis Gibson, from Prestwick, is set to compete in ice dance with his partner Lilah Fear, while singles skater and five-times British champion Natasha McKay, who trains in Dundee, will compete in the women’s event.

Despite narrowly missing out on the original selection for the championships due to a process which takes into account scores from both the current and last season, Vaipan-Law and Digby won the pairs competition at the British Figure Skating Championships in December, beating veterans Jones and Boyardji by 0.51 points. The pair, who both previously competed as solo skaters, teamed up to compete together for the first time this season.

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Vaipan-Law said: "We are so excited to compete at our very first European Championships. Our preparation was short, but we have trained hard all season and can't wait to compete at the big stage. We also want to wish Zoe Jones a quick recovery."

Another Dundee skater, Conor Stakelum, is also to travel to Tallinn to compete for Ireland for the fourth time, after this year’s Irish men’s champion, Sam McAllister, also tested positive for Covid last week, while Aleksandra Golovkina, who also trains in Dundee, will represent Lithuania.

McKay, as well as ice dancers Gibson and Fear, are due to compete in the Winter Olympic Games in February.

Gibson and Fear could be in the running for a place on the podium at Europeans, after finishing fifth in 2020. World champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, from France, have pulled out of the event, saying they want to ensure they remain safe from Covid before the Olympic.

Last year’s European championships was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Coach Simon Briggs said: “We have a big team from Dundee in Tallinn, with Natasha McKay and Aleksandra Golovkina competing in the women's event, Anastasia Vaipan-Law and Luke Digby in the pairs event and Conor Stakelum in the men's event.

"For Natasha, this is the dress rehearsal before she will compete at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. For Ana and Luke, this is their first major event in their first year of competing together. It will be a great experience for them and help them grow as a pairs team.”

Stakelum said: “I feel very bad for Sam, as no one wants to be unable to compete. I wish him a speedy recovery. It is not how I expected it to happen, but I am excited to go to Europeans nonetheless.”

The event begins today with the short programme in both the pairs and men’s competitions.

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