Scottish figure skaters are gearing up to compete in the European championships this week after the best seasons of their careers.
Prestwick-born ice dancer Lewis Gibson and solo skater Natasha McKay, from Dundee, will compete at the European Figure Skating Championships in Graz, Austria, this week.
Gibson, who skates with partner Lilah Fear, could be a medal contender after placing sixth in last year’s championships in Minsk, Belarus. The couple have enjoyed a strong performance so far this season, scooping a bronze medal in the Skate Canada Grand Prix and a silver in the International Skating Union (ISU) challenger series event, the Autumn Classic.
Gibson said: “We are very excited leading into this years European championships. We have been very pleased with our season so far and really hope to skate to programmes that we are proud of and entertain the audience along the way.”
McKay, who last year placed 20th at the European Championships and is due to compete in the event for the fourth time, said she has so far had her “best season”, scooping a bronze medal at the Golden Bear competition in Croatia and a silver at the Denkova-Staviski Cup in Bulgaria.
McKay said: “I am in great form and ready to compete. I have had the best season of my life so far, winning my fourth consecutive British title and scoring personal bests, breaking British records and winning international medals. My preparation has been going well, with the support of Sport Scotland and my team and I can’t wait to compete in Austria.”
Conor Stakelum, who trains at Dundee ice rink with McKay and is the Irish mens’ champion, is looking to qualify for the free programme for the first time. Only those skaters ranked in the top 24 after the short programme qualify for the second part of the competition - the free skate.
Stakelum said: “I am very excited to be competing at the European Championships for the third time and to be representing my country is always a proud moment. Training has been going well and I can’t wait to go out to Austria.”
Ice Dundee coach Simon Briggs said: “We are very excited by the progress this season – the results speak for themselves. Natasha has achieved personal bests in both the short and free programme. Her progress in the free programme in particular is significant.
“It is great travelling to the European Championships with two of my students and seeing all their hard work paying off. I’m sure it will be a great event.”
The championships starts on Wednesday with the men’s and pairs’ short programme. Ice dance begins on Thursday when Gibson and Fear will compete in the rhythm dance and McKay will begin her competition in the ladies’ short programme on Friday.
In the men’s competition, PJ Hallam from Sheffield will skate for Great Britain, while in the pairs competition, the nation will be represented by Zoe Jones - the oldest ever British competitor in a European championships at 40 - and her partner Christopher Boyadji, from Swindon. Robynne Tweedale and Joseph Buckland will also compete in the ice dance category.