A taste of Winter Olympics on your doorstep

There are opportunities to get involved in a number of Winter Olympic sports at Fife Ice Arena in Kirkcaldy
There are opportunities to get involved in a number of Winter Olympic sports at Fife Ice Arena in Kirkcaldy

Have you been inspired by the television coverage of the Sochi Games over the past few weeks?

Has curling raised your curiosity, ice hockey aroused your interest, or figure skating taken your fancy?

Ice Show at Fife Ice Arena, Kirkcaldy

Ice Show at Fife Ice Arena, Kirkcaldy

If so, then the good news is you don’t have to leave Fife to get a taste of the Winter Olympics.

Fife Ice Arena is situated in the Gallatown area of Kirkcaldy and is home to ice hockey, figure skating and curling clubs – and anyone can get involved.

The iconic rink – which celebrated its 75th birthday last year – is also home to the famous Fife Flyers, who play in the UK’s top ice hockey league and regularly attract crowds of more than 1500 spectators.

There are great opportunities to get involved at grassroots level of all these sports, with dedicated classes for beginners who want to take the first steps towards becoming a possible future Olympian.

Here we take a look at the Winter Olympic opportunities that are available on your doorstep:

CURLING:

With a bronze medal for the ladies, and silvers for the men, the success of Team GB curlers at the Winter Olympics has given the sport a real boost.

Now Fifers are being given the chance to follow in the footsteps of Eve Muirhead and Dave Murdoch through local taster sessions.

0712009 SSFF usa curling '- visit of Curling Team from USA playing against local team at Fife Ice Arena, Kirkcaldy

0712009 SSFF usa curling '- visit of Curling Team from USA playing against local team at Fife Ice Arena, Kirkcaldy

Free ‘Try Curling’ sessions are currently being held at Fife Ice Arena where qualified coaches guide beginners through the basics, while all the necessary equipment, such as stones and brooms, as well as training aids, is provided.

Curling enthusiasts of all ages – from budding Muirheads and Murdochs to those of retirement age – and all abilities (including those with a disability and those in a wheelchair) – are encouraged to go along to the next sessions, which take place on Wednesday, March 5, from 5.30 to 6.30 p.m, and 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.

Each session is free of charge – however, you are encouraged to book a place as numbers are limited.

The ‘Try Curling’ initiative is part of a drive by the sport’s national governing body in Scotland – the Royal Caledonian Curling Club – to attract new people to curling on the back of the Sochi Games.

The local sessions are overseen by Kirkcaldy Curling School, and its head coach Bill Creevy.

“The free class is a basic introduction to curling,” Bill explains. “It’s short and sharp, so people can learn how to slide, sweep and deliver a couple of stones.

“It looks easy on TV but people soon realise how challenging it is!

“You’ll get the chance to play in a game, and if you enjoy it, the next step will be to join beginner classses at the curling school.

“There’s no age limit. We’ve already had a couple of sessions and we had all ages from seven to 70.

“It’s amazing how many people have got caught up in the Winter Olympics. It’s brought curling to people’s attention, which can only be a good thing.

“The main objective is to get more juniors playing out of Kirkcaldy.

“There’s a shortage of curlers in general – but if we can get more kids involved, it will keep the sport thriving.”

For more information visit trycurling.com, or to book a place at a free taster session at Fife Ice Arena, call or email Bill Creevy on 07740374458 or bill.creevy@btinternet.com.

ICE SKATING:

Kirkcaldy Ice Skating Club has many dedicated girls and boys from all around Fife, including Keegan Cairns, who is the current Boys’ Scottish Ice Dance Champion.

At only 11-years-old, he has the potential to be a future Olympic star.

The club’s head coach, Jackie Coubrough, is hoping to attract new members on the back of the popular TV show ‘Dancing on Ice’ and the Winter Olympics.

“Parents and children are often hanging onto each other when they come onto the ice for the first time,” Jackie said.

“But it’s always amazing how we get most of the children to be skating on their own within the first five minutes.

“We always see an increase at this time of year due to Dancing on Ice – the learn to skate numbers can double in January. Hopefully the Olympics is going to add to that.

“Figure skating doesn’t get much coverage, but we’ve had really good coverage of the Winter Olympics. Hopefully that will help local kids get into it.”

The club has a number of young children competing in their first ever competition in England next month – possible first steps towards becoming a future Olympic star.

“We’ll always have kids aspiring to become Winter Olympians, but it can be very difficult to get that high given the lack of facilities and funding,” Jackie explained.

“We don’t have the same back-up system for winter sports over here as they do in other countries so the majority of top level British skaters train abroad.

“However, we’ve got kids competing at the Scottish Championships and the British Ice Dance Championships, which is a good level, and there’s one or two we have high hopes for.”

Anyone can attend the club’s weekly ‘Learn to Skate’ session, which takes place on a Sunday morning from 9.30 to 11.00 a.m, and costs £6.

Beginners will be able to learn the basics and gain confidence on the ice, while there is even a ‘snowbabies’ class for pre-school children.

“A couple of our kids who started in the snowbabies class are now skating at a competitive level,” Jackie added.

“We’re a lot of people’s first point of contact when they come to the rink, and once they’ve got the basics, they’ll either move into specialised figure skating lessons, or into the ice hockey club, depending on what sport they prefer.”

For more information on the Learn to Skate programme at Fife Ice Arena, you should contact the rink on (01592) 595100.

ICE HOCKEY:

There is no doubting the biggest winter sport at Fife Ice Arena when it comes to the number of spectators involved.

Fife Flyers are the oldest surviving ice hockey club in the UK, and currently compete in the Elite League, the UK’s top tier.

Their home matches take place most Saturday nights between September and March, and attendances are currently averaging over the 1500 mark.

The team is comprised of the best locally-produced talent, and imported stars from Europe, America and Canada – whose national team won both the men’s and women’s gold medals at Sochi.

However, you don’t need to restrict your ice hockey involvement to just that of a spectator.

You can play the sport as well, with classes for beginners up to the age of 12 organised by Kirkcaldy Ice Hockey Club.

The club’s junior development programme has produced a number of top players over the years who have gone on to become Fife Flyers legends – and in some cases, represented Team GB.

KIHC’s learn to play sessions take place on a Saturday lunchtime from 12.15 p.m and run for one and a half hours.

The sessions are open to kids as young as five, although the only stipulation is that they should be able to skate, so a visit to the ice skating club’s beginners class is always recommended first!

Edith Page, the chair of Kirkcaldy Ice Hockey Club’s junior development, would like to see more Fife youngsters getting involved in ice hockey.

“We can give them some kit to get started and give them a two-week trial to see if they like it,” she explained.

“After that, we ask them to buy their own equipment and that’s when some parents are put off because they realise ice hockey equipment isn’t cheap.

“The IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) has plans to provide more equipment to help promote learn to play, but that’s still at an early stage.”

Once through the learn to play process kids can progress into age group teams which play in national leagues. These run from under eight all the way up to senior level, where players can aspire to become Fife Flyers players.

“Flyers joining the Elite League a few years ago has certainly given a boost to the juniors,” Edith added.

“The problem is keeping them coming because once they get to 12 or 13 other factors come in - we see lots of kids leaving who want to play football instead.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about ice hockey at Fife Ice Arena should visit www.kihc.co.uk or contact the rink on (01592) 595100.