'Don't freeze us out' plea by ice stars
From the archive, first published Saturday 27th Jan 2007.

MILLIONS of people will watch Rossendale-based international ice skater Natalia Pestova fight to stay in the Dancing On Ice TV show tonight.

Russian-born Natalia made her first live appearance with skating partner newsreader Phil Gayle on the reality show last Saturday, and the duo were delighted when viewers voted to keep them in the ITV competition, which also stars celebrities such as Ulrika Johnson and Stephen Gately.

Natalia, from Carr Lane in Rawtenstall, said: "We were so pleased when they called out our names - I burst into tears!

"It's been very difficult for Phil because he is so unusually tall and that makes it harder for him to co-ordinate his body.

"He had also injured his foot a few weeks ago. On Saturday we were fully prepared to have to go to the final skate-off', so it was a wonderful feeling to be voted through."

Now Natalia hopes viewers are as supportive tonight, when judges including ex-ice skating champ Karen Barber (pictured right) of Billinge, Blackburn, will be scrutinising their efforts.

Natalia said: "I'd love for us to stay in the contest. Phil has worked so hard, he had never skated before so it's been like learning how to walk for him. But he's never given up, even though it's hard for him."

The 32-year-old mum has been in London for 10 weeks, practising with Phil and now filming and promoting the show. Yesterday they appeared on ITV's This Morning and tonight is the live broadcast, when the ten remaining couples will battle it out.

Natalia, who has been skating professionally for 25 years, said: "Skating can be nerve-wracking anyway, but even more so live. It's not like Strictly Come Dancing, you can easily hurt yourself skating, as quite a few of the contestants have. You can be a professional and 100 per cent confident and still fall down.

"It's really tiring, but great fun. I've enjoyed meeting all the people and being part of such a big show.

"It's great a programme is being made about skating, and that it's so popular, because it's a wonder-ful activity and it's bringing it to a lot of people."

Although she hopes that she and Phil make it to the end, Natalia admits she'll be delighted to be able to be with her family again.

Her husband, fellow skating pro Alexei Kislitsyn, has been looking after their two-year-old daughter Anna-Marie, and also running their Russian and Eastern European delicatessen shop in Blackpool.

Natalia said: "I miss them both so much. I have pictures of Anna-Marie everywhere and I've also brought videotapes of her which I watch on the machines we have to watch our own practice."

It is not the first time the family have had to spend time apart recently. Alexei, 39, spent two months in Spain last year, when he took part in, and won, the country's own version of the ice show, partnering Spanish gymnast Almudena Cid.

Natalia said: "I was really pleased when Alexei won because they were not the favourites at the start so it would be nice if I can do the same with Phil."

l Dancing On Ice, presented by Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, begins at 7.10pm on ITV1.



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