Kemp grateful for some competition in Croatia

11:10pm Saturday 19th January 2013

By Steve Tinniswood

IT could easily be a question posed by Sue Barker to the Question of Sport teams – what was so unusual about Stacey Kemp and David King’s record eighth British pairs ice skating title?

A collective scratching of heads by Messrs Tufnell and Dawson and their respective guests would be the likely response, after all ice skating hasn’t captured the imagination or column inches since the heady heights of Torvill and Dean.

Only celebrity B-listers attempting to stay upright in the name of entertainment give the sport any sort of coverage these days - and that is more for their off-the-ice antics than on it.

Chorley-born Kemp and King are the undisputed British stars of ice skating but the answer to Barker’s poser is that they won their latest title without having to skate against anyone else.

It is a sorry state of affairs that has seen them uproot and take their training camp to America, having also been based in Poland.

“It is very difficult to stay at the top of your game when you don’t have other teams to push you and keep you on your toes,” said Kemp who learnt to skate at Blackburn Arena when she was six-years-old.

“If you know there are other teams wanting your title, it keeps you fresh and always striving to push yourself as far as you can go.

“This was one of the main reasons we also moved to train outside of the UK.

“There weren’t enough pair teams to train against, and when we were the top in the UK, we had to move to look at the bigger picture and train against some of the top pair teams in the world.”

Kemp and King, who competed in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, will get the chance to compete against ‘real’ opposition when they take part in the European Championships in Croatia next week.

But a string of injuries means it is unlikely they will better their best finish of sixth place, also in Croatia back in 2008.

“We have had a rough season with injuries,” added Kemp who studied fashion and textiles at Blackburn College for two years. “I tore the PCL of the knee while David is recovering from torn ligaments in his ankle.

“We have already had to pull out of two grand prix events. So this year we are not looking at beating our best place, it is all about trying to get a certain score to qualify for the World Championships.”

Kemp, 24, and 28-year-old King, who is from Cumbria, have won a total of 10 British titles but it is their eight senior crowns that saw them entered in to the National Ice Skating Association’s Hall of Fame.

“We made history last year in winning the senior title the most times by one team,” said Kemp, who was coached by Dawn Spendlove at Blackburn. “We are very proud of all our British championship titles.”

It’s a record that has largely gone unnoticed and the sport relies on Dancing on Ice rather than the major competitions to get any sort coverage, much to Kemp’s dismay.

“Unfortunately I think Dancing on Ice raises the profile of skating more,” she added. “Which is very sad, as its very fake and not all correct. A lot of it is done with camera effects and it is nothing like the sport in itself.

“But it makes for good TV and people like watching celebs try new things. I suppose it’s better than having no promotion of the sport at all, but I’m really not a big fan of Dancing On Ice, like most top skaters aren’t.”

How they would crave the attention heaped on those Olympians during an unprecedented summer sporting love-in. They can only hope the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year will do for them what London 2012 did for Ennis, Wiggins and Farah.

“London was amazing and we were honoured that Team GB managed to get us tickets to watch great athletes like Usain Bolt compete in an electric atmosphere,” she said.

“British figure skating has had all its major successes at the Olympics and I’m sure many people will tune in to watch as it is such a spectacle of the winter calendar.”

The Winter Olympics holds a special place in the hearts of the skating pair, King proposed to his long-time girlfriend Kemp on the day of the closing ceremony in Vancouver.

“David proposed to me on the day of the closing ceremony in the Olympic village,” recalls Kemp. “We have been together off the ice since 2005. We don’t have a date set for the wedding yet, as we have so little time to do any planning or organising for it. So it will probably be in 2014 straight after Sochi Olympics.”

Now that would be another question worth springing on Messrs Tufnell and Dawson.

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