A FORMER ice skating coach has been given a special lifetime achievement award.
Mildred Atherly, 85, of South Hylton, has been acknowledged by the National Ice Skating Association (NISA) after giving more than 60 years to the sport.
“I didn’t expect it,” said Mildred, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in March. “I’m very pleased to get the recognition – it’s difficult to achieve. I treasure all of my awards very much, and this is one of the best.”
Originally from Derby, Mildred coached in Switzerland, Scotland and Durham before moving to Sunderland in the 70s to begin coaching at Crowtree Leisure Centre.
Having competed at the Commonwealth Games herself, Mildred’s coaching career saw her take Gina Fulton to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.
NISA coaching director Simon Briggs said: “She was inspirational within many coaches’ and skaters’ careers. When we announced her award in front of 200 people at the coaches conference there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
“She has had such an impact on so many people within the stating community.
“The award is to reward people who have given their life to skating, which Mildred certainly has.”
Mildred takes the honour of being the first person to receive this inaugural award.
Former UK junior figure skating champion Alison Donovan, 49, of Grindon, said: “She was very dedicated to her work and taught some very good skaters. It wasn’t just making a living, it was her life.
“She would have people from all over the country come to Sunderland during the summer holidays to take lessons from her.
“She was quite an eccentric coach but had a lot of drive and enthusiasm.”
After the Crowtree ice rink closed in 2000, Mildred continued to coach in Billingham until a knee problem in 2007 forced her to retire.
She now lives at The Village Care Home, South Hylton.