'We're so fortunate' - Filippov thrilled as ice bowl reopens

Figure skaters delighted as ice skating returns in NI

Ice skating coach Maria Filippov says she feels "so fortunate" after returning to the rink for the first time in five months.

Filippov was speaking to BBC Sport NI at Dundonald Ice Bowl, which on Friday became the first ice rink to reopen in the UK after lockdown.

"We are so excited, it's been 20 weeks since we closed," said Filippov.

"We're happy to be the first one in the UK back on the ice. Everybody is still struggling, so we're very fortunate."

Filippov, a former national champion with Bulgaria before finding television fame with Dancing on Ice, admits that lockdown proved challenging for her as she attempted to adapt her coaching into virtual lessons.

"It was very difficult at first because you are used to that close contact with you students and then suddenly you can only see them across the screen," added the 47-year-old.

"We did quite a lot of online skating, if we can call it that, with Zoom classes so it was quite difficult for the kids to adjust without that interaction.

"It's so different but they did so well, adults and children, and I'm really proud of them, they kept it up and kept fit. They're really enthusiastic about our sport."

Filippov added that she has felt the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic with her income having been drastically affected during lockdown.

"It's been difficult for many reasons," she said.

"You set goals at the beginning of the season and hope that the students can fulfil their potential, but then the season was suddenly cut short. You have nothing to look forward to.

"Financially, it has been very difficult as we are self-employed and had no income."

However, despite the absence of coaching on the rink, Filippov's enthusiasm for educating aspiring skaters remains admirably undimmed.

"I absolutely love it," she said.

"This was the longest break I've ever had in 39 years of skating.

"I think that shows that this is my life, and I'm so grateful that we are back - hopefully it stays this way."

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