Unlike John Curry, who was inspired to take up the sport after seeing an ice show on television, outside influences brought Torvill and Dean to the ageing Nottingham Ice Stadium in Lower Parliament Street near the city centre. Jaynes school had a programme in which pupils were taken to the rink. She was nearly ten and hated putting on the ugly, black, worn rental skates.
She pestered her parents, who run a small newsagents shop, to buy her a pair of second-hand skates. With this precious acquisition and a private lesson a week, Jayne was hooked.
Chris stepmother pointed him on the path which was to bring him world-wide fame. She bought him a pair of new skates and took him to the rink hoping that this would provide the ten-year-old with an interest to keep him off the streets and out of mischief after school. At first Mrs Dean would stay with him at the rink. The first time she left him on his own she returned to be greeted by the news that he was at hospital. He had skated into the rink barrier and broken a leg. I just forgot to stop, Chris said when asked how the accident had occurred.
For most children that accident would have meant the swift end of their skating career. Betty Dean certainly would have preferred him to take up something less risky. However, by this time Chris was committed. Almost immediately the cast came off he passed his preliminary test, though one of the three judges pointed out he appeared a little stiff on one side. Chris was so promising that when his father, an electrician, was laid off work due to a strike, his first instructress, Pat Beet, approached his parents offering to accept delayed payment so that Chris would not have to miss any lessons.
Initially Jayne and Chris were teamed with different partners and both couples were very successful. Jayne, knowing that she had taken up the sport a little late to do well as a singles skater, was fearless and determined in lifts with a very fallible partner, Michael Hutchinson. They won the British junior pair title and represented Britain in the St Gervais Grand Prix in France and the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf in southern Germany. Then, when she was fourteen, they won the British senior pair title. However, a few weeks later, having been placed last in the European Pair Championship in Goteborg, the partnership split.
Nottingham is the centre of British ice dancing. The national championships have been held there since 1951. It is impossible for anyone to skate at this rink without being influenced by ice dancing and this was the direction Chris chose. He teamed with the tall Sandra Elson.
Sandra and Chris won the 1972 British novice championship, a remarkable achievement since they managed to fall in two of the three compulsory dances. At this stage Sandra was distinctly the better technician. A photograph taken the following year shows a rather podgy Chris in a very bad position on the back edge after the Foxtrot outside mohawk. However, Sandras excellent presence on the ice enabled them to gain fifth place in the British junior championship only slightly behind Nicky Slater and his first partner, Kathryn Winter. Nicky would never have believed that Chris, carried as he then was by Sandras abilities, would later overtake him and that he himself would become a perennial second-place competitor. In 1974 they won the British junior title and were selected for their first international, in Czechoslovakia. They nearly didnt take part: there was a problem in obtaining Chris visa, possibly because he had become a police cadet.