Stef Reid talks Dancing On Ice and why fear spurs her on

Paralympian Silver Medallist and Dancing on Ice competitor Stef Reid tells how feeling challenged is a great motivator.

Stef Reid

by Alison James |

As a track and field Paralympian, Stef Reid is used to performing under pressure – but that’s in her ‘day job’.

Taking part in ITV’s Dancing on Ice has been a whole new ‘ice’ game!

“I’ve never done anything like it before in my life,” she reveals. “There is the fear that you’re going to be terrible with everybody watching, but I also think that’s part of what makes it special and exciting.

“It’s the same as competing, you have the fear of ‘What if I totally mess up?’ but that also gives you the adrenaline and excitement and I love that. I remember my coach once said to me that fear and excitement are the same emotion. It’s just a matter of your perspective.”

Stef also reveals that every year she has a rule to do something new and exciting. “In a way, it’s the fear and the nerves that spur me on. You never want to stay in your comfort zone for too long in life because then, I think, you’re stalled and you’re stuck.”

Having lost the lower part of her right leg in a boating accident when she was 15, Stef, now 37, has had to overcome some very specific obstacles in order to compete in the ice-dancing contest. “When I started training, I felt wildly out of control on the ice," she says.

“Every contestant has their own difficulties but mine were because, due to having an artificial leg, there were no sensory nerve endings in the right foot and ankle area. I kept falling over all the time and found it difficult to balance, find the edge on my left skate and also skate backwards. The best way to describe it is to liken it to hitting a patch of ice when you’re driving – you have no control over the car. But it was no deal breaker and both Andy Buchanan, my ice-dancing partner, and I were determined to make it work for us. I found alternative ways of keeping my balance by using by eyes and also my arms.”

Stef reveals that every year she has a rule to do something new and exciting

Stef wears a specially made prosthetic leg to give good ice contact. “Prosthetist Richard Nieveen designed the most amazing skating leg for me and it worked very well from the start. I continued to fall over a lot during rehearsals but I am very gifted at taking a tumble!

I played rugby a lot as a youngster so i'm used to taking hits. Plus, as a long jumper, I’m used to launching myself into a pit at full speed and landing safely. It’s second nature to me. Andy recognised that so he’s not been afraid to push me at times. I’m fit and healthy and quite robust!”

Steph says, in many ways, it’s the dance part of Dancing on Ice that’s been the most challenging.

“The creative element,” she groans, good-naturedly. “Give me something that requires me to run and jump in a straight line and I’m there. But dancing... During my first lesson, Andy asked me what my fingers were doing. ‘I’ve no idea,’ I replied. But as ice-dancing is an aesthetic sport, style and lines are all important. There is so much you have to think about! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bothered about doing well – competing is a way of life for me – but all I can do is my best. That’s the most important thing to me – to feel like I couldn’t have done any more.”

In addition to Dancing on Ice and her athletics career, Stef, who is married to fellow Paralympian Brent Lakatos and lives in Loughborough, is involved with The Leprosy Mission, which recently launched the Greater Heights campaign, paving the way to end leprosy by building a research centre in Nepal.

“I became involved with the charity in 2019 when they asked me to host a week of Social Media broadcasting events they were organising,” she says. “I also went out to Nepal with them to see for myself what living with leprosy is like. It is such a frustrating disease because there is no reason for it still to exist. It is treatable and it’s inexpensive to do so, yet in some parts of the world leprosy is still going untreated, people are still losing limbs and having life-changing injuries because of it.

“To be blunt, leprosy is a disease of poverty. I knew very little about it when I became involved with The Leprosy Mission and wondered if it was possible to catch it. The truth is that because you and I are healthy and from wealthy countries, we won’t catch it if we come into contact with people with the disease. It’s OK to get close to people who have leprosy. There is such stigma, isolation and shame attached to this disease and I wanted to become involved and, in some small way, try to help prevent and eradicate it.”

Well said Stef.

To find out more about the work of The Leprosy Mission and the Greater Heights campaign visit leprosymission.org.uk

You can watch Stef on Dancing on Ice, ITV, Sundays, 6.30pm

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