Ice stars strike gold yet again

They melted our hearts as they captured the ice from the Russians.

They melted our hearts as they captured the ice from the Russians. As Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's Dancing on Ice tour rolls into Newcastle this weekend, Simon Gage talks to the gold medal-winning ice icons.

"I know it sounds big-headed, but I can't ever remember going on the ice and having to hold onto the barrier," laughs Jayne Torvill, World and Olympic Champion and arguably the most famous female ice-skater in the world.

She's talking about the celebrities who audition - they don't just take anyone - for ITV's Dancing On Ice show and how some of them don't have what it takes.

"There's got to be some potential - some people come on and literally freeze."

For Jayne and skating partner Christopher Dean, Dancing on Ice has been like a new lease of their skating life.

After more than 25 years competing and then touring with shows of their own devising, they were more than ready to put their feet up. Mind you, it seems as though they've spent their lives on the verge of going back to normality and then being dragged back by sheer force of public demand.

"When we left our jobs back in the beginning, we knew we only had a year to prove ourselves," recalls Jayne.

"We thought we'd be going back to Norwich Union," says Christopher, nodding over at Jayne, who was a secretary, "and to the police force," pointing at himself.

The world's most famous ice dance duo first met when they were 15 and 16 and had both been abandoned by their respective skating partners back in Nottingham, back when they were grabbing the odd hour before the rink opened or after it shut to practice.

Christopher had received a pair of skates as a little boy from his mother while Jayne, on the other side of the city, had been on a school trip to a local ice rink and had fallen in love with it.

By the time the two met, Chris was Junior Champion ice dancer and Jayne Senior Champion pairs skater.

Jayne says: "We got on well straight away because we both wanted to work hard and we'd both been dumped!"

They immediately did well, moving from national championships to the international circuit, though their amateurish juggling of work and training compared very unfavourably with the highly organised Russian skaters they were competing with.

"We just wanted to do the best we could until it ended," says Chris.

But it was never to end. In 1979 they came fourth in the World Championships and gave up their jobs to see what would happen.

What happened was Olympic history. After living on a grant of just £14,000 between them for four years, they went to Sarajevo and skated away with a straight set of perfect sixes in the 1984 Winter Olympics.

So how did that row of perfect sixes feel? Chris and Jayne shrug and look at each other.

"I remember when we finished and we just got this huge response from the audience and were so happy because it had gone so well," Jayne says.

"You've been building towards this your whole life, so it's just a relief. I was collecting armfuls of flowers and then there was another roar and the marks started to come up. And then another roar as the sixes came in."

After the next World Championships Torvill and Dean decided to put their show on the road, abandon the quite strict rules that go with competitions and start touring with a hand-picked troupe of skaters.

"What we enjoyed about the shows was the creativity," says Jayne. "We were becoming a bit stifled by the rules, and suddenly as professionals we could use any music for any length of time with all the moves we liked."

The show, needless to say, was a smash hit.

"We're lucky that we took part in a sport that crossed over into entertainment," says Jayne, who says, however, that she does not feel like a showbiz star.

"Otherwise we wouldn't have had such an interesting life. And we really enjoy doing Dancing on Ice."

They enjoy it so much, in fact, that as soon as the second TV series finished last month they headed off on a UK Dancing on Ice tour - the celebrities and the competitive angle and all - which rolls into Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena for three shows from Sunday.

So popular is the format that before North-East audiences have even had a chance to give their verdict on the touring version, two more performances have had to be added at the arena for May 6.

Among the stars taking part are Bonnie Langford and Stefan Booth from series one, and series two winner and former rugby international, Kyran Bracken. Will the celebrities be able to hack it?

"That's a very good question," laughs Christopher.

"It'll be a different result every night, as voted by the audience with their mobile phones, how amazing is that? But that's a real competition - there's no hiding the true winner when the public are voting.

"And there's definitely no hiding real talent when the winning celebrity couple have to perform the Bolero routine for the live audience - we know how terrifying that can be. We are working hard to make sure all the celebrities are fully trained on that routine, should they win."

Being on tour in each other's pockets - that's when they'll all start having relationships, arguments and fights.

"That does happen," concedes Jane. "But it's inevitable. Tensions run high when there is that much pressure to do well and win over the audience to get them to vote for you.

"Chris and I feel the pressure that the celebrities do enormously when it comes to a live routine.

"We see them doing fantastically well in training but performing is a totally different experience."

As part of the tour, Jayne and Christopher will perform five dances at each of the live shows. "It will be good to be back doing what we love most, performing some of our favourite dances in public together after all these years, and where better than in front of our most loyal fans all over the UK," says Jayne.

Chris adds nostalgically: "We're very excited to be travelling around the UK visiting all the major cities, especially for me now living in the USA."

As they immerse themselves in the tour, they're trying to spend whatever time they can with their families.

Christopher is now based in Colorado with his sons Jack and Sam and wife Jill ("How do women do that? How do they get you to move to where they live?") while Jayne is back to Sussex with her husband Phil and her four-year-old son, Kieran.

Are there any potential Olympic Skating champions among the new generation of Torvills and Deans?

"I think Sammy," says Jayne of Christopher's youngest son. "Well, he likes throwing himself on the ice," exclaims Christopher.

He doesn't mention whether he has to hold onto the barrier though.

* Dancing on Ice - The Tour is at Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, on April 22 (1.30pm and 6.30pm) and April 23 (7.30pm), and on May 6 (3pm and 8pm). For ticket information go to www.metroradioarena.co.uk or call 0870 707-8000.

Torvill and Dean's guide to dancing on ice

THE JUMPS

Salchow

Another edge jump, taken off from the back inside edge of one foot and landed on the back outside edge of the opposite foot. Named after its creator Ulrich Salchow.

Toe Loop

A toe pick-assisted jump that takes off and lands on the same back outside edge.

Loop Jump

An edge jump, taken off from a back outside edge and landed on the same back outside edge.

Flip Jump

A toe pick-assisted jump, taken off from the back inside edge of one foot, and landed on the back outside edge of the opposite foot.

Lutz Jump

A toe pick-assisted jump, taken off from a back outside edge and landed on the back outside edge of the opposite foot. The jump is named for its inventor, Alois Lutz.

Axel Jump

One of the most difficult jumps which takes off from the forward outside edge and is landed on the back outside edge of the opposite foot.

THE SPINS

Highly under-rated in the skating world, practising and perfecting a quality spin can take as much time, effort and athletic ability as the triple axel. Here are some of the most popular.

Sit Spin

A spin which is done in a "sitting" position. The body is low to the ice with the skating (spinning) knee bent and the free leg extended beside it.

Combination Spin

The combination of several spins where the skater changes feet and positions while maintaining speed throughout the entire spin.

Other moves to look out for:

Crossovers

A method of gaining speed and turning corners in which skaters cross one foot over the other.

Layback Spin

Generally performed by women, the layback spin involves an upright spin position where the head and shoulders are dropped backwards and the back arches.

Mohawk

A turn most commonly done from forward to backward with a change of foot.

Lunge

A move done with the skating knee bent and the free leg extended straight behind. The upper body should remain upright and arched, with arms extended out at the sides.

Footwork

A sequence of step manoeuvres carrying the skater across the ice in patterns.

Toe Picks

The teeth at the front of the blade, used primarily for jumping and spinning.

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