Libby Clegg MBE, double Paralympic gold medallist has traded in her running spikes for a pair of skates as she takes on the challenge of Dancing on Ice.
For those of you who haven’t been tracking Libby’s sporting career over the last 12 years, you have been missing out…Libby, who has Stargardt macular dystrophy, has competed in not one, but three Paralympic Games; winning two gold and two silver medals along the way! But this year, she has decided to compete on a more slippery surface as one of the celebrities on Dancing on Ice.
We caught up with her to find out all about her experience so far in the competition, Libby said: “It’s such an incredible experience, I’m enjoying every minute of it. It’s a lot harder than I anticipated initially – I really enjoy challenging myself and breaking down barriers. I try not to put a cap on my abilities”.
Taking part in Dancing on Ice is huge challenge for every celebrity that signs up, but for someone who is registered as blind, it throws up a lot of different difficulties: “It’s really difficult initially getting your balance on the ice because I think it is quite a visual thing. And also, I struggle with the contrast of the white of the ice and whatever’s around – for me, that can be quite disorientating.”
Despite this, Libby, being the true sportswoman she is has made it clear that she doesn’t want any special treatment, adding: “I want to make sure that I am treated like everybody else and I’m not getting any special allowances because of my sight – so I’m just doing my best and if it goes wrong, it goes wrong. The worst that can happen is that I just fall over. And that’s fine – it will make good telly, and everyone can have a laugh.”
Libby has been partnered with Mark Henretty, one of the professional dancers on the show and she says he’s been a huge support: “I’ve just trusted him from the get-go, as I knew I had to just go for it”. Mark uses his own number system to help Libby learn the steps and positioning in training, and now the two are so familiar with each other, they’ve even created a sort of code of noises to prompt Libby to do different moves.
Their bond is clearly strong as Libby says: “I’m definitely going to be in touch with Mark for some training sessions – I don’t think he realises that he’s not going to be able to get rid of me that easily after the show.”
As Libby is still working towards competing in the Tokyo Paralympic Games, which are happening in August this year, she’s been having to balance her athletics training with her skating. Libby said: “It’s been tricky to handle, but my coach has been really supportive and he’s encouraging me to make the most of the opportunity.”
In the last year, Libby has also become a new mum, so it seems she’s a professional juggler as well as a professional athlete. She says that this has given her a whole new perspective on her sporting career: “I obviously want to be successful in my sport, but having my little boy has just put a whole new perspective on my life – as long as I know, when I go to Tokyo, I’ve done my best, it won’t really matter where I come because I’ve still got the best thing in the world, which is my little boy.”
In 2020, RNIB will be launching our “See Sport Differently” campaign, which is all about making sport inclusive and accessible for people with sight loss. So, in the spirit of our campaign we asked Libby what she’d say to people with sight loss to encourage them into sport, she said: “Don’t necessarily aim to be a Paralympic athlete, aim to just enjoy sport. It doesn’t matter what it is, how big or small the competition is, or whether you’re just doing it for fun – it’s just about enjoying it and making yourself feel good. For me, sport has given me so much confidence and it’s made me a much more independent person. It’s put me into situations that I would of otherwise felt incredibly uncomfortable in, like meeting new people.”
Make sure that you tune in to ITV at 6pm on Sunday night to give Libby your support (and your vote!). You can also follow Libby on Instagram to stay up-to-date with all of her achievements. Also, if you want to hear more from Libby, you can listen to her talk about her experience on Dancing On Ice, or you can hear her interview about her sporting career.