Sheffield hospital manager set to achieve Olympic dream

Claire Shepherd

Claire Shepherd

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An aspiring athlete whose hopes of figure skating at the Olympics were put on ice by a foot injury has found another way to make her dreams come true.

Claire Shepherd, assistant general manager at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, started ice skating at just six years old after watching a performance by ice dance legends Torvill and Dean.

Claire Shepherd has become one of only 240 people in the world to qualify to judge championship figure skating events

Claire Shepherd has become one of only 240 people in the world to qualify to judge championship figure skating events

The sport became her life up until the age of 16, when a stress fracture in her foot cut her time on the ice short.

Now, 18 years on, Claire, from Oughtibridge, has got her Olympic ambition back on track after becoming one of only 240 people in the world qualified to judge championship figure skating events.

She said: “I wanted to give something back to the sport I loved and I still had a personal ambition to be involved at the elite level. As I couldn’t do that on my skates anymore, judging was the way to go.”

Over the past 10 years Claire has worked her way up the judging ladder from regional and national competitions to the international circuit, where she has officiated at competitions in Denmark, Mexico and Germany.

This summer she took a rigorous three-day exam, set by the International Skating Union, to allow her to judge championship events such as the Winter Olympics and World Championships. The challenging process consisted of a written theory test and assessing performances.

“It was the toughest thing I’ve ever done - every decision you make is scrutinised,” said Claire, aged 34, who spends most of her holidays officiating at events.

“The exam is held only once a year and you only get three goes at it. This was my second attempt so it was nerve-wracking.”

Claire is now one of only nine ISU recognised championship officials in the UK.

She added: “Each championship event has nine judges from different countries. There is a draw each time to find out which UK judge will be selected, but in the UK they work it so that everyone gets the chance to do one Olympics.”