Double-gold medallist Paralympian and Guide Dogs Ambassador, Libby Clegg MBE, took to the ice on Sunday night as the show’s first ever contestant with sight loss. Libby is no stranger to physical challenges and is keen to show she can hold her own against fellow sighted contestants.
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As a champion Paralympian, Libby competes in 100 and 200 metre sprints with an arm strap to connect her with her sighted partner and is therefore used to putting her trust in someone whilst moving at speed. However, lifts, spins and skate blades add a whole new level of risk, and Libby’s sight loss requires a different approach to training and coaching from her professional skate partner, Mark Hanretty.
Libby comments: “As I can’t see the required skating moves before I try them out, I’m reliant on Mark’s powers of description to guide me through. Trust and communication are a key part of being successful and making the partnership work, and I ask a million questions.
“Also, I can hear whether it sounds right. When you skate well it makes a kind of biting noise on the ice and when you do it badly it makes a scratchy noise, which I hear frequently! Although sometimes I think I might have a slight advantage to my fellow contestants, since my lack of vision actually makes the twists, turns and spins easier as I don’t get dizzy!”
Libby’s skate partner Mark, added: “When I heard I was being partnered with Libby I was gobsmacked and terrified in equal measure. But being around someone who’s registered blind and yet copes with life so well, there aren’t words to describe how impressed I am with her. Libby is an incredible human being and I feel I couldn’t have been blessed with a better partner.”
Libby has Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy and is registered blind. She was paired with guide dog, Hatti, a black retriever/labrador cross, five years ago. Libby explains how she applied for a guide dog because she was getting fed up of having to explain herself to people.
Libby concludes: “Because I don’t really look visually impaired, if I bumped into somebody, I felt like I had to give them my life story. Not only that, I was nearly hit by a car on a couple of occasions, so it was a bit dangerous and my family were worried about me. I also walked into a hedge one-day, full body.
“Hatti is invaluable and has supported me to live my life with confidence, independence and on own my own terms. Whilst Hatti can’t join me on the ice, she will be supporting me rink-side.”
For more information about Guide Dogs, please visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/dancingonice