Welsh ice sports 'at risk' as rinks remain shut but others in UK open
Video report by ITV Wales correspondent Richard Morgan
The mother of a young skater from Cardiff says the future of Welsh ice sports is at risk, because Wales is the only UK nation still not allowed to reopen its rinks under coronavirus rules.
Ceri Davies-Jeans says Welsh skaters are being put at a disadvantage, with coaches and staff also affected by the ongoing closure.
Ice Arena Wales in Cardiff is the only operational rink in Wales, with the other in Deeside, Flintshire, currently being used as an emergency hospital in response to the pandemic.
But Ice Arena Wales has been closed since March 2020, with losses of £500,000 and no date for when it might reopen again.
"There's lots of teams that use it - university teams, inclusive teams, the junior Devils, Cardiff Devils, figure skaters and synchronised teams," Ceri told ITV News.
"There's an awful lot of people who use it for physical exercise and wellbeing - lots of different reasons, like any sports facility."
Ceri Davies-Jeans and daughter Romy say they're frustrated by the ongoing closure
Meanwhile, rinks in England, Ireland and Scotland are open for business again.
Ceri added that she cannot understand why the rules are different in Wales compared to other parts of the UK.
She has started a petition calling for the rink to reopen, which has gained more than 5,000 signatures in just over a week.
Ceri's own nine-year-old daughter Romy is an aspiring young skater who would usually train at her local rink up to five days a week.
Now, in order to keep up her training, Romy has no choice but to travel to England every week.
Every Saturday and Sunday, the family wakes up at 3am for a four-hour round trip to Coventry, where Romy gets three hours on the ice.
Each Wednesday, they travel more than an hour each way to Swindon for an hour-long training session.
Ceri says the long journeys are taking a toll on the family, both physically and financially.
Furthermore, Romy is worried that she will not reach her full potential as a skater, saying she is struggling to land moves she used to do with ease.
"I feel like I've lost quite a lot of strength," she told ITV News.
"I don't have much ice time. It makes me feel sad, because I have a competition soon and I know the other skaters have been training lots."
A 3am start and a car nap: Romy's video diary of her weekly trips to Coventry to train
Ceri added, "It's really frustrating knowing that the skaters in Scotland, Ireland and England that she'll be competing against will be able to train five, six times a week. She hasn't been able to get that exposure to the ice to get her to the correct standard.
"Romy has improved over lockdown, but not as much as she should have, or could have. She's still kept up her training. She did so many Zoom sessions and we bought her off-ice skates so she could still have lessons with her coach - in car parks, on any smooth concrete we could find in Cardiff.
"Outside the actual ice rink there's a really lovely smooth bit of concrete there, so that's where she and some of the other skaters were training. Which is really sad - to be outside the rink on rollerblades when they could just be inside."
First Minister Mark Drakeford on the ongoing closure of Ice Arena Wales
Ice rinks, nightclubs and adult entertainment venues are the only facilities in Wales that remain closed under coronavirus restrictions.
On Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said there are "particular dangers" associated with cold and enclosed environments and that the advice was not to reopen the rink at present.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "We are in ongoing discussions with Ice Arena Wales about the possibility of sportspeople returning to the ice, when it is safe to do so."
Todd Kelman, managing director of Cardiff Devils, says frustration is growing