Olympic hopeful Peters breaks the ice for Ireland

DUBLIN teenager Clara Peters made history this week when she became the first Irish competitor to take to the ice at an elite international figure skating competition.

The 17-year-old Olympic hopeful from Terenure finished 38th at the European Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland — earning valuable experience.

“It was great to skate around and see all the fans and have all the people cheer when they called my name,” she said.

“It was an amazing feeling. I was comforted to have support from the Irish fans in the crowd.”

Peters has trained at the University of Delaware with renowned figure skating coach Ron Ludington.

“I’ve always wanted to skate; I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to. There was no one moment at a championship or something; it’s just always been in me, none of my family ever skated before and I don’t know where it came from but it must be in my DNA.”

With this talent hardwired in her biology, Peters began skating aged three at the now defunct Dolphin’s Barn and Phibsborough rinks; she was hooked. She travelled to Belfast and later Dundalk to train before in 2004, the budding Torvill was recommended for assessment by the National Coaching and Training Centre in Limerick which was carried out by Canadian Olympic coach, Kerry Leitch. Peters was awarded a place at Leitch’s training school in Florida and at just 14 years of age, amazingly, moved to the US.

“It was really hard” she admits now, “I was so young but skating is all I ever wanted to do and there is no funding for skating in Ireland which I don’t understand.”

After two years under the tutelage of Leitch and his team, the American guru felt she has reached her maximum potential at his facility and Peters was awarded a place at the University of Delaware Olympic-endorsed facility run by Ludington and brimming with the world’s brightest figure skating potential.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to be training where I am.

“I train for eight hours a day, Monday to Friday on top of trying to balance my schoolwork. The facilities are state-of-the-art and it’s a huge honour now to get the chance to represent Ireland.”

Peters will now set her sights on the World Championships in LA in March 2009 and will be trying to qualify for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver as a goal for this year but the level-headed teenager is taking it jump by jump.

“I really just want to go out and improve on my previous stuff. So if I can nail a jump better than I’ve done before or a spin better than I’ve done before than that’s improvement and I’ll go from there.”

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