by Anne Calder

IDC is proud to shine a light on Inclusive Skating, a charity that created a new competition and event system for skaters with additional needs. In 2018, the ISU recognized the Inclusive Skating format. The Glasgow 2019 Inclusive Skating event appeared on the ISU calendar for the first time.

Christopher Martin Davis is a former American ice dancer who began his skating journey in Evanston, Illinois. In 2014, he began representing Bulgaria with partner Mina Zdravkova. The team trained in London, England with two-time British Ice Dance Champions Marika Humphreys-Baranova & Vitaliy Baranov prior to retiring after the 2021 World Championships. Davis currently resides in London and is involved with Inclusive Skating.

Davis shared the following with us regarding Inclusive Skating:

With new Olympic and ISU World Championship medalists recently crowned, a lot of attention in the skating community has been locked on the elite ice dancers vying for medals, qualification and glory. Their training and sacrifices are celebrated by commentators and fans alike. It’s wonderful to see these athletes get the recognition they deserve; however, frequently in the whirlwind of elite skating, our sporting community can forget that this small group of athletes is only one minute facet of the diverse group of people who find joy and achievement in ice-dancing. From recreational skaters to competitive adult athletes, to skaters who train and compete with disabilities – many people contribute to the greater tapestry of our beautiful sport.

I believe that the contributions of these overlooked members of our community also deserve recognition and praise. Since retiring from my own skating career, I’ve had the honor of joining Inclusive Skating as a trustee and judge. This opportunity has given me in-depth exposure to some amazing athletes, and I believe that the rest of the ice-dancing world would also benefit from this same exposure, appreciation and understanding.

Inclusive Skating is a charity that provides educational resources, training, seminars, events, championships and other opportunities to skaters with additional needs. Founded in 2012 by Margarita Sweeney-Baird BEM, Inclusive Skating has grown from its base in Scotland to include members from around the world. Inclusive Skating acknowledges the validity and importance of each individual skater’s training pathway. Margarita pioneered a robust judging system based on empirical data from the American Medical Association which allows for fair competition between skaters with diverse disabilities, neurodiverse competitors, and able-bodied athletes.

This past December we held our annual Inclusive Skating World Championships. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we held this event virtually. As a judge, it was thrilling to watch how the competitors overcame the challenges to perform under pressure and deliver. As a former ice-dancer, I particularly enjoyed watching the compulsory events, solo dancing, synchro duets and free dancing. All of our skaters displayed immense skill and dedication, but there were a few that I was particularly impressed by. The unique skills present in some of the synchro duet athletes is remarkable; some of these teams perform with a member who uses a wheelchair, which requires them to develop unique tracking techniques as well as creative use of spacing and connection to complete their elements. The sheer creativity and experimentation are inspiring to all dancers.

From a technical skills standpoint, I believe that the greater ice-dance community should be introduced to Juliana Sweeney-Baird. Juliana skates with immense precision, musicality, flow, and poise. She truly dances when she skates. As the current IS World Champion, she also inspires many of our younger members both on and off the ice. When she’s not training, she is a student at the University of Glasgow studying social and public policy, and also devotes time to advocacy related to her rare genetic condition, Bardet-Biedl Syndrome Type 1. Many are stunned to find out she skates at such a high level with vision loss; her tenacity and skill are extraordinary.

Inclusive Skating welcomes new skaters, coaches, and volunteers. If you are inspired by the stories of our skaters check out inclusiveskating.org