He stacked shelves to earn his Olympic Gold, has endured countless knee operations, and has twice entered the Guinness Book of Records. Find out what’s made Robin Cousins such a tough judge of his ‘Dancing on Ice’ celeb skaters.
Robin John Cousins was born on 17 August 1957 in Bristol. It was on holiday, on a hot summer’s day, that five year old Robin first felt the cool breeze coming off an ice rink through a doorway. Lured in, he persuaded his mother to let him try and was soon whizzing around like a natural.
He asked for skating lessons for Christmas and picked a lady called Pamela Davis ‘because she just smiled at me’. Pamela had skated with John Curry (the British Olympic and World Champion figure skater) and she trained him from novice to his first World Championship. (He came 15th). She helped with the complete show business package advising on music, fabrics and technique. A move to London, a change of trainer, and helped by the fact that there wasn’t a lot of male competition, he soon progressed through the senior ranks.
As an amateur, however, money was a problem. (Back then, there simply weren’t the managers or agents around to guide young talent). His civil servant dad and secretarial mum tried their best and his brothers even took extra paper rounds in order to pay for extra skating lessons.
He lived in a bedsit in Notting Hill (back when it was a much less glamorous place than it is today) cooking on a ‘bunsen burner’ instead of a stove and supported himself by stacking shelves in a department store. He practiced on London’s Queensway ice rink before and after the public sessions, sometimes finishing his training at 2am.
And as with Torvill and Dean, Cousins was only able to really hit the big time because of grants from sports and government bodies.
1980 was the pinnacle of his amateur career and also the year he turned professional both helping him win BBC Sports Personality of the Year. His competitive zenith came with the Olympic Gold in the Men’s Figure Skating at Lake Placid. Many argue it rivals Torvill and Dean’s Bolero.
Cousins then turned to performing professionally doing three seasons for ‘Holiday on Ice’ starting in 1980. He found it a freeing experience because it allowed him the chance to perform without formal judges to please, or rivals to compete against. But it was a dramatic change to go from maybe 12 performances a year on the competition circuit, to sometimes 12 entertainment performances a week.
Crowds flocked to see his trademark back flip for which he entered the Guinness Book of Records with a stunning 18 feet (5.48m) jump. As well as performing, Cousins also started to choreograph various productions including the Wizard of Oz and Starlight Express. His move back stage was in part precipitated by his recurring knee problems which were probably not helped by punishing back flip routine. He has also since acted in the Rocky Horror Show and Cats and in 2008 choreographed the Guinness Book of Records biggest ever skating wheel. In 2006 he became a judge on TV's 'Dancing On Ice'.
He has also worked to raise the profile for Aids charities after the death of the former Canadian champion, his friend, Robin McCall. Unlike many other celebrities, however, Cousins has remained private about his personal life.