When Lewis Gibson was growing up in Prestwick on the outskirts of Glasgow, football was the sport he loved playing.
Then one night, at the age of 11, he saw Torvill and Dean on Dancing On Ice, and decided it was something he needed to try at his local ice rink.
“It looked so much fun, but it was a drastic change,” the 27 year-old tells i.
“I really found joy in the freedom of moving across the ice and how artistic the sport is.”
Gibson has just stepped off the plane in Beijing to represent Great Britain in the 2022 Winter Olympics with his skating partner Lilah Fear.
“It’s a dream come true,” says Gibson. Fear, born in the US to Canadian parents with a family full of skaters, had a more natural path on to the ice.
The 22-year-old moved to the UK when she was two, which is when she first began skating, and in 2016 she partnered with Gibson.
Since qualifying for the Olympics, the duo have been training on the ice for four hours a day, five days a week.
“That time is very intense,” says Fear, “and we really focus all our energy on being the best skaters. Then everything else we do off the ice complements that, whether it’s ballet or hip-hop dance training, or strength training.”
Whereas some sports see athletes visibly sweat, or pained, ice skating can look deceptively easy when done well, partly because it’s stylised and involves graceful balletic movement.
“It’s a compliment that it looks effortless,” says Fear, “as I think that’s what we all strive to portray when we’re out there. But our muscles are burning and the amount of work that goes into this, the amount of strength and athleticism involved, it’s definitely underrated.”
Viewers get an insight into the gruelling training in BBC3’s new fly-on-the-wall series Freeze: Skating on Edge, which features not only Fear and Gibson but also the rising stars of British skating, including Nina Povey and Eleanor Hirst.
Kristen Spours, 21, is also one of them, as a triple junior national champion and double senior national medallist and winner of five international medals. She has been skating since the age of five, drawn to the ice by the promise of sparkly outfits, but compelled to stick with it because of the athleticism it requires.
“I would train from six in the morning to eight in the morning,” she tells i, “then go to school, and then go back to the ice rink after school and train until six, then go home, do my homework, sleep, and then go again. And weekends were spent at the rink training. I never went on school trips, I’d be training instead.”
Life is no less busy now. Spours, who lives in Nottingham, skates three times a day, as well as teaching skating and working at an ice rink in order to fund her skating career.
It’s non-stop, but she appreciates it more than ever since a spinal injury three years ago threatened that she may never skate again. Her back had been bad for a while, and after a workout one day while alone training in France, she had no feeling in her left leg.
“A doctor at a hospital in France wanted to operate on the spot,” says Spours, “but I discharged myself and got the next flight home and went to see a surgeon.
“They said they could operate but it would mean my career was done, or I could go down the physio route, which might not work, but it at least gave me a chance.
“If it gave me even a 10 per cent chance of skating again, then I was going to go for it. It worked, but it’s been a tough road to get there.
“I still want to compete and to go to the Olympics, but after my injury I also feel I’ve won just being out there on the ice every day, doing what I love.”
Freeze: Skating On The Edge begins Saturday 5 February at 9pm on