February 16, 2010 by
Who would have thought it? The redtops favourite hate figure – has taken to the ice and the nations have taken her to their hearts. Heather Mills now has a growing fan club celebrating her extraordinary performance on Dancing On Ice and I am proud to say that I am card-carrying member.
I watch staggered as she took to the ice on week one and stunned everyone with her ability to skate. There is no hiding place on the tiny ice rink in the TV studio, and as a test of character and physical endurance there are few tougher. “Oh my God the woman can skate and bloody hell she is better than most of the others” I thought. I know the pain of this sport and just how excruciating it is and I have seen plenty of action and face quite a few challenges of my own – but on one leg – that is simply remarkable.
Few gave Heather a hope in hell of surviving even week one among the 13 eclectic stars of stage and screen and yet against all the odds and even her most optimistic ambitions – she is still there and hanging on.
Behind the scenes hardened cameramen have had tears in their eyes as they witnessed the struggles she undergoes in practice. These are a crusty lot but they have come over “all emotional” while seeing her struggle and suffer mostly while the cameras are off.
In the bar, after the show, the technicians, soundmen and producers gather for drinks with the celebrity contestants and their guests and are quietly moved by what they witnessing.
“You got to give it to the girl she is made of steel” one told me. Another said, “ We seen it all but to watch her handle the training and the stress without complaint is a very humbling experience.”
I know over the years this show has had their fair share of difficult divas of both sexes who could pull a tantrum at the drop of a sequin but that is not what the ‘back stage’ boys are saying about Heather Mills.
Countless times on the street people stop me to say how bemused they are about her performance and progress. “ To be frank I was not a fan but she has grown on me and you can’t help but being impressed”, one told me. Another said ‘its all about the journey and no one has a better story to tell than Heather. She is an inspiration to me’, I was told. In the sixty of so celebs who have signed on the show – hers is the most extraordinary.
I met Heather for the first time after her debut performance on the ice. And she looked tired. That nervous energy had evaporated and now she was only on adrenalin. “I am just working hard and want to enjoy it as much as I can week to week”. There was no outward ambition just a quiet determination. This was a different person from the one I had read about.
This week I talked to her about this. “In all the hubris about the split Joe public was only ever very polite and supportive to me.” But the funny thing is about this show that she has discovered is that you may have been married to a Beetle or helped over 400,000 amputees and landmine victims but “all anyone wants to talk to me about is the ice skating.”
Make no mistake this is a hard sport to learn with two legs. It is inconceivable that someone could embark upon this adventure on one and still do so with such skill.
Privately she admits to great discomfort and pain with her prosthetic leg “I don’t want any sympathy for my situation but I want to people who have lost a limb like me to know that life doesn’t stop it just changes”. It is perverse that some commentators might think a lost limb is an advantage in a ice dance/popularity contest but that is the odd place where Heather Mills finds herself. “ I can only do what I do. I get up every morning at five. Do my paperwork, the emails and then drive two hours to training. I do two or three hours on the ice and then I rest. I want to do more but they wont let me”, she told me.
Rarely does anyone ,outside the Physiotherapist, Sharon, see her stump without its sock. But this week one coach saw it and was very upset. Her leg stump is bruised and red raw from the exertions on the ice. “I never knew”, the coach said.
This is a sight and side that no one at home sees but which is the spit and sawdust of Paralympics Sports and her everyday life for Heather as a novice ice-skater. Make no mistake there have been plenty of crying prima donna and moaning prima donal’s on this show – but Mills is not one of those. She is a one off and on the ice you simply cannot take your eyes off her.
She has underplayed her enormous disability and in a show where even a bruise is celebrated as a hindrance to performance ( I once sported the biggest bruise ever seen on Dancing On Ice) it is beyond belief that she is managing so well. Her partner Matt Evers told me ‘ this girl does not stop. She simply never says no. She may not be able to do it but will say lets try this way. And that is remarkable”, he says. Matt, a part-time actor ( he appeared the ‘greatest sporting movie ever – ‘Blades of Glory’ with Will Ferral) told me “ this woman is going to surprise a lot of people. She may not win the competition but she will win their respect. She has mine, completely.”
Heather lost part of her left leg after being hit by a Police motorbike in 1993.
“”I just am doing this as a challenge. I am doing it for my daughter (Beatrice) to make her proud” Heather told me.”. This morning “, she said , I was talking to a little girl who lost her leg to meningitis and she asked me, if I could do Dancing On Ice when I grow up” why not I said”. Why not indeed. That was Thursday evening. I had left a message for Heather to phone me about this piece. I was at a tap dancing class with my eldest Allegra (7) and watched her dance while on the phone. While chatting I thought I would be proud to have my daughter take inspiration from Heather. This is a story that should be told and celebrated.
I hugely admire her and I recognize from the inside out exactly how brutal her journey must be and mine was on two legs. From beginner to Olympic Trainer camp, from zero to hero – can we be witnessing the re-invention of Heather Mills.
There is no PR guru or management team at work here just one woman, one leg and her blades of Glory and that may be all she needs. Good on you girl!