Please vote for Mark - I owe him!
Last night, at approximately 9.37 pm, I was screaming at the television and giving it laldy.
Not because I have finally finished my exams or someone made a ridiculous point on the news, or even because I had friends around and I was rekindling my social life.
I was shouting with joy and relief that my own brother, Mark, had been put through to the next round of Dancing on Ice with his celebrity partner and fitness guru, Rosemary Conley.
This is the second series of the D-list celebrity/reality TV programme that my brother has appeared in, but last year was a bit of a flop as he exited the rink on the first week with Nadia Sawalha.
Ice dancing as a career option for a boy growing up in the west of Scotland was something of a novelty and a source of difficulty as Mark will testify.
Football was a boy's only option and Mark received little help and support while at school. I remember my brother having to get up ridiculously early to train at the ice rink in Prestwick, and if he was late to school, the teachers cut him no slack.
A teenager aiming to compete at World Championships and ultimately the Olympics was not admired or rewarded for the effort of juggling two lives.
Then came the moment when we all teeter over the edge of young adulthood. Mark has now admitted that he lied about having applied to UCAS and for university courses (when actually, he hadn’t). This was a risky option if anyone has met or knows my parents!
He did this to appease our parents, who worried that ice skating may not be a long term and stable career path, but Mark knew what he wanted to do.
Of course funding was and still is scarce for sports and ice skating is not cheap. Those sequins can weigh in at a heavy price.
Yes, it probably was risky of Mark to stray off the path of convention, but he did go on to the World Championships and almost to the Winter Olympics - had it not been for some passport issues with his American partner who had married an Englishman, and some difficulties within the National Ice Skating Association.
He is now only one out of a handful of British ice skaters involved in Dancing on Ice. Indeed, with the retirement of John and Sinead Kerr last year, one of the UK and Scotland most successful professional ice dance couples, the UK ice skating world is looking a little sparse.
We hear on the news that children and young people are not doing enough sport and exercise. The Olympics in London is hoping to reverse this trend, but I hope also that people like my brother can prove that pursuing sport as a career is as important, if not more so, than university.
If the two are equal, then why can we not introduce sports scholarships, the likes of which are very common in America and which produce soccer stars and scholars.
Why can we not make room to accommodate pupils who train in their sport while studying for highers and standard grades?
My brother has justified the choice he made when he was 17 and shown that he can make a living out of a slightly quirky sport, as he is now a coach and choreographer.
OK, he lied to my parents about applying to university, but he is now on the nation's TV screens.
So, I ask you all to please vote, and vote often for my brother, Mark Hanretty, who is dancing with Rosemary Conley (after all, I was the one who told on him to my parents about his UCAS lie and I still have a way to go until I make up for that.)
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