THEIR moves are slick yet steady.

With a combined age of 218 Bradford Ice Arena’s more mature skaters eclipse the age of Grease star Didi Conn, the oldest celebrity contestant on this year’s ‘Dancing on Ice.’

Yet practice makes perfect and unlike the ice skating celebrities in ITV’s hit show - who only stepped on to the ice a few months ago - among them former Yorkshire cricketer, Ryan Sidebottom, a familiar face at Bradford Ice Arena where he has been training for some of his routines with his professional ice skating partner, Brandee Malto - Anne Higginbottom, Harold Stott and Joan Thomas have been polishing their skating skills to perfection over many years.

For them skating is a pleasurable pastime, an escape from the hum drum and something to do now they have time on their hands.

Gliding on one leg across the ice, 70-year-old Anne performs a very impressive spiral, Joan gently glides freestyle while Harold, who is working on some more advanced moves, perfects a drag lunge sliding along the ice on one knee.

At 76, Harold is the oldest of this spritely trio - but he isn’t the oldest skater at Bradford - that title is held by 82-year-old Alison Lockyear who, according to Bradford Arena ice skating instructor, Sarah George, has been coming to the rink since she was in her 20s.

Anne, Harold and Joan’s introduction to skating came as adults. Anne’s first foray into ice skating came many years ago when she accompanied a work colleague.

“I always thought it looked good - I went once and couldn’t stand up!” she smiles.

Anne’s re-introduction came many years later when she took her daughter ice skating for her Birthday.

While there she learned about the coffee morning at Bradford Ice Arena - the only drawback was the coffee morning was aimed at skaters who had reached a certain standard.

Working shifts during her nursing career didn’t give Anne the flexibility to take up ice skating lessons at that time, but as soon as she retired she laced her up boots and has been skating ever since.

She, like Harold and Joan, have become proficient in their skating. Anne has even participated in two of the Bradford Ice Arena’s annual ice shows - the latest was the ‘Winter Wonderland’ at Christmas.

“I did it this year and about five years ago in between hip replacements and two knee replacements,” she says.

Anne says the appeal of ice skating for her is ‘doing something nobody else can do.’

“I also like dancing - I will dance any time of the day and night.”

Ice skating at any age can instil a fear of falling, particularly in those who are less proficient on the slippery stuff, but Anne pulls on her padded clothing for protection - she enjoys gliding at speed and is currently learning how to do three jumps.

“I just love it - I don’t love it at 6am when I have to get up though!” she says, referring to the days when she travels to the arena for her ice skating lesson.

Since taking up skating a decade ago, Anne has completed Skate UK’s learn to skate programme.

“When I first came I used to fall all the time and I still can fall,” says Anne, who can empathise with the skating celebrities on ‘Dancing on Ice’ when they trip or take a tumble

She says she enjoys watching the Sunday evening show and often tells her husband ‘I can do that’ when watching the celebrities perform the technical elements of their routines.

Joan’s introduction to ice skating came when she accompanied her daughter-in-law.

“I’d had a go when I was a teenager and always liked it and thought I’d like to have a go. I’ve been coming ever since,” she says.

“It’s such fun and you meet people.”

The benefits ice skating brings to Joan is:- “It’s challenging and it keeps you fit.

“I learned to do a spin last week - it was a bit of a shock!” smiles Joan, who enjoys skating backwards.

She also loves the social aspect of skating. “You can’t be lonely on the ice.”

There are no age restrictions and no limits either - people in wheelchairs have taken to the ice at this friendly arena where everyone is welcome.

“It’s very inclusive,” says ice skating instructor Sarah George.

Harold travels to different ice arenas but particularly enjoys coming to Bradford - and is prepared to make the 30 or so mile journey from his home in Saddleworth ‘three times a week if possible.’

He took up skating five years ago. It was an alternative to skiing after he couldn’t get on the slopes during a busy half-term holiday.

Recalling that experience, and his decision to try skating at Altrincham ice rink instead, Harold says: “I thought ‘stuff that’ and caught the bus to Altrincham.”

Harold progressed through the Skate UK levels.

“I did the levels and kept advancing all the time,” he says.

The former engineer and teacher’s techniques went viral with thousands of shares after Sarah posted some footage of his skating at Bradford Ice Arena on social media.

Harold’s skating skills include spins, jumps, edge work and bunny hop drags.

“When I’m on the ice I don’t think of anything else,” says Harold.

“You’re just thinking ‘what way are my feet going!’”

“And what are my arms doing!” adds Anne.

“If you have any problems it clears your mind,” says Harold.

“A lot of them say it’s therapy,” says instructor, Sarah, referring to the many benefits of skating.

It has certainly been a distraction for Harold who has continued to pull on his skates during his recent prostate cancer treatment.

His only fear is of falling and breaking a limb which would curtail his ice skating.

“I don’t want to break anything because even when I am walking I take my time down steps,” says Harold.

While conscious of the risks, this trio are proving you’re never too old to pursue a pastime you love.

“You would think they would be more afraid with age but they aren’t. It’s part of their life, it’s in their bones, in their blood, finding new skills,” says Sarah.

“Ice skating isn’t ageist at all and it’s not something they have done as children - they started as adults - it’s inclusive for all abilities,” she adds.

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