Cottrill was fortunate in living across the road from the Solihull ice rink, which opened when she was three. Very many children are introduced too late to the sport for them to compete successfully as singles skaters. The East Germans, who do extremely well in singles and pair skating, have only three skating centres, which are used to ensure the maximum amount of competitive success. Five is considered the ideal starting age. A great many children are screened and those accepted into the training programme are expected to show constant progress. The dead wood is vigilantly pruned at all stages so that it is possible, there, to be a seven-year-old failure. This ruthlessness produces youngsters with great potential. The 1980 Olympic champion, Anett Poetzsch, was only twelve, then the minimum age, when she was entered for the 1973 World Championship and was placed a very creditable fourteenth out of twenty-eight. Because Janina Wirth, also from East Germany, won the 1982 World Junior Championship, she was permitted to enter the senior event, even though she was fourteen, a year younger than the current minimum age, and gained twelfth place out of thirty-four.
In Britain there are national competitions for many categories, including boys and girls under eight. The clear winner from dozens of entrants in the 1983 Haig Oundjian under-eight girls contest at the Queens ice rink was Nicola Gregory, a wide-eyed seven-year-old from Sunderland with a short, brunette Dorothy Hamill hairdo, who is also a trampoline expert. The previous year she had won the Richmond under-eights contest.
The winner of this contest in 1983 had much of her glory stolen by Lindsay Jayne Kaszubowski from Bristol who may never become a champion skater but at three and three-quarters proved she already possesses the ability to milk the audience while playing to the judges. She began her one-and-a-half minute routine by skating completely around the rink waving to the audience.