A shop worker who is skating her way towards international ice dancing success is appealing for sponsors to back her dreams of stardom on the ice.
Zara-Louise Owens, 17, who works part time as a supervisor at the Trespass store at Wrexham’s Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre, has been ice skating since the age of nine and has set her heart on a career as a full-time competitive figure skater or professional ice dancer.
The talented athlete, who is trained by a professional ice skating coach at Deeside Ice Rink in Queensferry, Flintshire, says skating has cost her parents thousands of pounds over the past eight years in private lessons, equipment and costumes.
She is now hoping to secure a sponsorship deal to boost her chances of competing at the highest level and carving out a full-time skating career – as well as relieving her supportive parents of some of the financial burden.
“I’m so passionate about it I want to continue figure skating for as long as I can,” she said.
“I think it’s important that young people who want to go into sport professionally should receive some support financially.
“It helps to steer people’s futures and encourage them to fulfil their dreams. My future is hopefully going to be in figure skating but it’s so difficult to do if you can’t afford it.
“I’m very fortunate that my parents helped me but hundreds of kids out there don’t have the same opportunities.”
Zara-Louise, who lives in Wrexham with her parents, was first introduced to ice skating during a family outing at Deeside Ice Rink. The sport captivated her from the outset and her mum signed her up for an intensive six-week beginners’ course in which she managed to achieve some of her grades.
After the course, she was taken on by a professional coach and had private lessons from dance and figure skating tutors three times a week to develop her talent.
“I love the freedom to perform and the feeling of being in the air, it’s completely indescribable,” said Zara-Louise, who says her worst injury was breaking her wrist at the age of 10.
“You have to be quite committed. When I started I was just a kid and it has meant that I’ve had to make sacrifices like watching what I eat, improving my stamina and turning down nights out with friends but it’s been worth it.”
Zara-Louise travels across the UK competing against top ice skaters from England, Scotland and Wales and has dozens of medals and trophies to her name. Her most difficult move is a ‘Double Lutz’ which involves a double rotation mid-air and her three-minute routine is littered with difficult spins and combinations.
However, this year the teenager has reluctantly had to reduce the amount of competitive skating she takes on while she studies for her A Levels at Castell Alun Sixth Form in Wrexham.
“Until a year ago I was competing all the time but I started my A Levels in September so I had to wind it down just a little as there’s so much work to do,” said the teenager, who is studying Theatre Studies and Dance.
“The competition season starts from January through to around July. I’m doing my Level 1 coaching for skating at the moment which is another focus.
“To become a coach is very expensive. You have to achieve certain levels to become a coach and each level costs a set amount of money, starting from around £300. It gets quite pricey. I’ve been looking at grant funding and have applied but so far no one has come forward.
“I was hoping to get a sports grant of some kind to help but it’s proving really difficult.”
While she would like to compete at the highest level and fulfil every skater’s ambition to be selected for the Olympics, Zara-Louise’s biggest ambition is to travel Europe with Disney on Ice.
The ice skater is considering auditioning for the hit show after completing her A Levels next year and if successful, she plans to put her university degree on hold.
“It depends on how the skating goes,” she said.
“Skating can be very expensive. It has cost thousands of pounds over the years. When my career starts to take off I aim to pay my parents back quite a bit.
“I live about 30 minutes from the rink so there’s the expense of fuel too. My parents have driven me to the rink for nine years but I recently passed my test so I can drive myself now. If they hadn’t paid for it I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.
“One day I would love to coach someone to the Olympics but my real aim is to help people achieve their dreams like my coaches are helping me to do. I want to put something back.”
Isaac Patterson, manager of Trespass, said: “Zara is very tenacious and to balance all three of her roles must be hard work but she doesn’t let it affect her in anyway. She’s great to work with and we all want to see her succeed in the future.”
Kevin Critchley, manager of Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre, was full of admiration for Zara-Louise and her ability to combine her skating career with full-time study and a part-time job as a sales supervisor.
“To become a professional athlete requires commitment, tenacity and dedication and Zara-Louise has no shortage of any of these qualities,” he said.
“Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre is immensely proud of Zara’s ice skating achievements thus far and we’re all looking forward to watching her career develop from strength to strength.”