UTTOXETER’S ice skating rink is set to offer the disabled a chance to compete in their own version of ice hockey.
The rink at iSkate, in Town Meadows Way, has announced a six-week sledge hockey course and organiser Mitch Payne aims to start a competitive Uttoxeter team next year.
The sport sees competitors’ legs strapped in on a sledge rather than skating and can be played by anyone, whether disabled or able-bodied.
Four members of the Great Britain paralympic sledge hockey team will be on hand to provide expert coaching during the six-week course, with the first session starting on February 4.
The announcement follows last week’s charity ice event at the rink, which saw a host of visitors learn to skate, enjoy attractions including a huge bouncy castle and take part in ‘bowling on ice’.
Mr Payne said: “We’ve raised £8,000 as an overall group throughout our rinks in the UK, which is a great effort.
“The event was a lot of fun and mayor Hugh Montgomery kindly came down to add his support.”
Now Mr Payne is looking to make sledge hockey a popular sport in Uttoxeter and is laying the foundations for a competitive team in town.
He said: “I had a meeting yesterday with some of the other organisers for the sledge hockey, which will be run through Sport England and Sportivate and will cater for anyone aged 14 to 25.
“A lot of rinks have sledge hockey teams and I’ll be looking to set one up in Uttoxeter with weekly training and weekend matches in competitive leagues.
“It really is a lot of fun and is one of few sports where those with physical disabilities will be on a level playing field with those who are able-bodied, who are also more than welcome to join in.
“This inclusive sport is an example of where the flat terrain of ice comes into its own when compared with other more uneven, bumpier surfaces.”
Mr Payne has talked the Advertiser through his preparations for coaching sledge hockey for the first time.
He said: “I’ll be training with the Great Britain team to get up to speed before the course starts, which is so, so exciting for me personally.
“I love skating and sports played on the ice so to be able to learn from some of the top players in the world is something i genuinely can’t wait for.”
Mr Payne is also running ‘learn to skate’ classes for 14-to-25-year-olds at the rink starting on September 13.
He said: “Learning to skate can obviously be tricky and takes a while to get used to, but, once you’re gliding along the surface, it feels amazing.
“I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to get active and do something a bit different to just going to the gym.”
Further information and details on how to sign up are available by calling Mr Payne on 07913 514486.