Zoe Salmon told last night how she was “embracing the bruises” in the hope of being crowned queen of the ice.
The ex-Blue Peter presenter from Co Down skates out for her first performance during this Sunday’s Dancing on Ice, has also said she is fulfiling a childhood dream by taking part in the prime time television contest.
And the former Miss Northern Ireland, who was just four years old when Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won Olympic gold in 1984 with their Bolero, said she never thought she would be mentored by the pair she had watched in awe as a child.
She said: “I thought it was a dream come true to be asked to take part. I’d grown up like most people watching the Olympics and every time it was on I was such a major fan of the figure skating. I was just completely in awe of everything — the costumes, the way they looked — and I always thought how incredible it would be to do that.
“And then all these years later to get a call saying, ‘hey, how would you like to be teamed up with a professional dancer and have Torvill and Dean choreographing routines for you?’ Well, I mean that it is something that money can’t buy. It’s like I’m living this dream that I thought of when I was really, really young.”
Yesterday during a whistlestop visit home, 28-year-old Zoe took time out to pick up some skating tips in a practice session with the Belfast Giants.
But for the TV daredevil who has already tried wing walking, Formula One racing and mountain climbing, learning to ice dance has been one of her toughest challenges to date.
She added: “Sometimes I feel a bit suffocated by it all because there is so much information and there is so much to learn. It’s so physically demanding and also mentally demanding, because you hear the information and you understand it but translating it to your feet when your feet are wearing these blades.
“It’s going to be really emotional as well because you have got to be able to do it and I am such a perfectionist and want to be able to do it and do it yesterday and to move on to something else. Honestly it’s the hardest thing I have ever done.
“I have had various bumps and bruises but thankfully nothing that has put me in an ambulance to hospital. In most sessions I am doing something wrong and falling over or in some way hurting myself. So you do go away with aches and pains but they say if you are not falling you are not learning so it’s all part of the whole process. So I am embracing the bruises.
“I remember my first lesson and there is a really basic step called a forward cross over — which is probably the equivalent of walking for professionals — and I thought I was never going to be able to do it. And even now it’s still not 100% right. But it’s the fact that you can do it without falling over.
“I used to not be able to breathe when I was doing that move because of the terror. I was completely full of nerves but you just have to not let the fear get the better of you and just keep going.”
Following in the footsteps of One Show presenter, Christine Bleakley, who took part in Strictly Come Dancing last month, and Eoghan Quigg in the X-Factor, Zoe is hoping to win the hearts of the voting public to keep her in the show.
She added: “They got fantastic support and they both did incredibly well. I just hope that I can do as well as those guys did.
“I’m sure I’ll bump into Christine at some point and maybe get some advice on how she coped with the nerves.”