Olympic hopeful Joseph keeps up the family tradition on ice

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Monday, September 20, 2010
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This is Nottingham

Olympic hopeful Joseph Buckland looks to have a bright future on the ice. But his family’s love affair with skating began many years before, with his great-grandmother. Lynette Pinchess reports

SKATING is in Joseph Buckland's blood.

His older brother competed at the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver but the family's passion for the ice can be traced back more than a century.

In the late-1800s, their great-grandmother used to strap blades on to her shoes so she could skate on the frozen fens.

Their grandparents loved the ice too, as a champion speed skater and professional ice dancer.

It seems only natural therefore that Joseph is destined for stardom.

The 17-year-old, who one day hopes to compete in the Olympics, swept the board several years running as a child with solo performances in the British figure skating championships.

At 15 he teamed up with a partner, Georgia Robinson. They won the British under-16s competition at their first attempt and came second in an international competition in Slovakia.

However, disaster struck two years ago when a back injury forced Joseph off the ice for six months and out of competitions for 18 months.

Two stress fractures in his spine meant he had to have complete rest for three months before gradually rebuilding his core strength to return to the ice.

For Joseph, who first ventured on to the ice as a toddler, it was a frustrating time.

"I've never had more than two weeks off the ice and I had to stay away for six months, so it was really hard. I hated it," he said.

The only plus side was it coincided with his GCSEs and he was able to devote more time to revision. Last summer he was back competing with a new partner, Danielle Bennett, since Georgia had continued to train and focus on solo skating in his absence.

The duo took part in the Junior Grand Prix in Istanbul, Turkey, and rose through the ranks to come second in the under-21s British Championships.

But with Danielle off to university, Joseph has now teamed up with 13-year-old Olivia Smart.

The pair spent the summer holidays training up to 20 hours a week at the National Ice Centre, with Joseph rising at 5am to be there for the 6am session.

Olivia had to get up even earlier to commute from her family home in Rotherham.

Joseph also regularly works out in the gym at David Lloyd Leisure near his West Bridgford home three times a week.

The pair have had to sort out a new training regime now they're back at school, making it a busy time for Joseph, who is studying A-levels in maths, physics and geography at The Becket School.

Should Joseph and his brother Nick end up competing in the 2014 winter Olympics, there is more likely to be camaraderie than sibling rivalry.

Joseph said: "We see each other as teammates. My brother trains in America now but when he's over here he trains with me and that is a big boost. We come up with ideas for each other."

Last month Nick, 21, returned from his training base in New Jersey to join Joseph at the Nottingham rink, accompanied by his Russian coach and two-time Olympic ice dance champion Evgeny Platov.

After sitting his A-levels, Joseph hopes to follow his brother to America to train with Platov full time.

"Skating is what I want to do for as long as I can and when I can't go any further I want to do it for the fun of it," said Joseph, whose greatest inspirations are Nottingham's legendary ice dance champs Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.

Joseph, born eight years after their 1984 Olympic victory in Sarajevo, was once taught by them as an eight-year-old at a training camp in Nottingham.

Footage showing the way the couple prepared for competition and how they dealt with injury kept him motivated as he recovered from his back problem.

However, if ever Joseph needs inspiration closer to home, there's no one better to turn to for advice than grandparents Jean and Bryan Grummitt.

Fifty years ago Bryan was three times British speed skating champion.

As a 16-year-old he was one of the first to skate at the old Nottingham ice rink when it re-opened in 1946.

He went on to establish a speed skating club, which he captained for 17 years.

"I couldn't afford to have lessons so we set this up from scratch," he said.

And he hasn't lost his touch. To celebrate his 80th birthday last December, he whizzed around the outdoor ice rink in Old Market Square with his family with the exception of Jean, who is in a wheelchair recovering from a stroke.

Jean started skating at 11. On her first visit to the ice rink she was smitten.

"I saw the girls with dresses and I wanted this. We bought second hand skates and my mum made me a satin pink dress," said Jean, 73.

Every Saturday she had lessons and turned professional at 16, starring in Christmas ice pantos in Nottingham from November to March and summer shows at Earls Court, in London.

Inevitably, Bryan and Jean met on the ice and last month celebrated 53 years of marriage.

Skating for Julie Buckland, their daughter and Joseph's mum, is more of a hobby.

"I skated until I was seven or eight and then I wasn't so bothered," said Julie, a lawyer.

"I went skating when I was pregnant with Joseph until the week before he was born and four days later I went back on the ice."

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