To mark Women In Sport Week (6-12 March), the Ice Skating Association of Ireland asked the women who make ice skating happen in Ireland a series of questions to hear about the challenges and unique culture of the sport within the country.
The theme for today is Leadership and Governance. Clara Peters was the first skater to represent Ireland in international competitions and she competed four times at both the European and World Championships. She is currently the Vice-President of the ISAI.
What inspired you to get involved in ice skating, and how has the sport influenced your life?
Peters: I have no fancy story, I wasn’t at a birthday party, I didn’t grown up watching ice skating movies, I just knew I was always going to spend my life in the skating world. To say skating has influenced my life is an understatement. I have participated in many roles, I have been a competitor, a coach, a technical specialist, a board member, and now I am the Vice-President of the National Governing Body. I have travelled the world, met many interesting people, learnt how to be strong and resilient. In short, ice skating has made me into the person I am today.
Women in sport have historically faced barriers to participation and recognition. Have you experienced any challenges or obstacles in ice skating in Ireland because of your gender?
Peters: I have faced all the possible barriers that there are, including gender. In the very early days I was only seen as a girl in a sparkly dress doing a novelty activity. At that time few even recognised ice skating as a sport in Ireland. In the early days of my competitive career ice skating was treated as a lifestyle segment. It took time to make the sport pages as I continued to write ice skating history for Ireland. For me just to be featured on the sport page was a massive win. Even though Figure Skating is perceived as a female dominated sport, even in Ireland, I find it is still hard for our voice to be heard, and our skills to shine.
What do you feel are the positive aspects of being a woman involved in ice skating in Ireland?
Peters: The unexpected positive I have found is the great sense of community that exists in Irish ice skating. I have gotten to play many roles in ice skating in Ireland and the common trend has been the wonderful ice skating family we have built. From the skaters I’ve coached, their moms with cups of tea at the ready, the volunteers making sure every event runs smoothly, the coaches I’ve gotten to work alongside – these friendships now go beyond the skating world. I have gotten to know girls who watched me compete become my students. I have gotten to help skaters grow from their first days on the ice to the next generation of coaches.
Ice Skating has empowered me to persevere. I quickly learnt that success comes with hard work. Ice Skating allowed me to achieve my childhood dreams. I set out to be the first skater for Ireland, I have won National titles, International medals, and been to European and World Championships. I received recognition in the form of Sport Awards and IOC Scholarships, sectors I never expected to support me.
Representation and visibility are important issues in all areas of life, including sport. What would you like to see happen in the world of ice skating to encourage more women to participate and succeed ?
Peters: The women in Irish ice skating are a creative and resourceful group. We are determined to be on the ice, even when many would have given up. Without question an ice rink that is open for more than 12 weeks is critical to give women in Ireland greater representation in their chosen sport and physical activity. As we continue to develop ice sports in Ireland I fear the start-stop nature of seasonal rinks will hinder a lot of girls and young women staying in the sport. If ice skating was perceived by the government as a serious sport and physical actively we would have hundreds of women and girls involved on a weekly basis throughout the country; it’s time our government gets behind the women of Ireland and commits to providing facilities and opportunity.