ROBIN Cousins is a man who has done it all – World Free Skating Champion three times, a European Champion, choreographer, actor and businessman. He must have seen his interviewers flailing around on the ice a hundred times and must surely be tired of teaching the basics to no-hopers like me.
And in front of a photographer and cameraman, not to mention a lot of zoo staff, how was I going to come away with any credibility? The only thing that was likely to shine was my impending bruises.
Luckily I met him on firm ground first – a chance to speak before the imminent debacle. One of Britain’s best-known sportsmen and now famous to a new generation through ITV’s Dancing on Ice, Robin was very happy to talk about the sport he loves.
More than two decades in skating had clearly not dimmed his passion for it, and he set about giving me some much-needed tips.
“People always try to walk, waddling like a penguin, but you skate side to side,” says Robin. “The waddle then becomes a glide. I tell children to skate as if they’re holding a basket so you keep the weight on the ball of your foot.
“And if you’re going to fall, just go with it.”
Next – find skates.
Contrary to popular belief, it is better to wear normal socks, so the skate is tight but not uncomfortable. A big size with big socks means less control.
Any novice who thinks skating is as easy as Robin Cousins makes it look is kidding themselves.
But his tips worked: bring my feet back to the starting position each time, weight on the front of the skates, drop low if I lost control.
As I got into a comfortable rhythm we talked more, and he was clearly proud of the rink provided by Cousins Entertainment.
“I always like to do things you shouldn’t be doing, so to have a rink at a zoo is a unique setting,” he said. “It means people will come to the rink when they would not have come to the zoo otherwise.”
I didn’t fall once, and came away still looking vaguely professional.