FOR Natasha McKay, the next month will feel like she is taking part in the worst kind of adrenaline sport imaginable. 

McKay has been selected as GB’s sole figure skater in the women’s singles for next month’s Winter Olympics but having avoided catching Covid for the entirety of the pandemic, she knows that if she has the misfortune of returning a positive test in the coming weeks, her Olympic dream is over. 

It does, she admits, make for a stressful time of things ahead of the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Games on the 4th of February.  

“I’m being so careful, I’m so paranoid about everything and everyone,” the 26-year-old says. 

“Things are so strict from the Chinese side – if you test positive any time after the 10th of January then that’s you out, you can’t go so it’s a long time to have to avoid it.  

“It makes the next few weeks very stressful and I just have to be so careful.  

“I coach kids and so I’m asking them all to do lateral flow tests beforehand, I wear a mask the whole time and I’m just so cautious.  

“So hopefully I manage to get through the next few weeks.” 

McKay, has been dreaming about becoming an Olympian for almost two decades. 

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Despite not coming from a family of skaters, an invite to her friend’s birthday party at the age of seven began a love affair with the sport that endures to this day. 

It did, she admits, take a full year of pestering her mum for a set of skates before she could embark on this path to the Olympic Games but even as a primary school child, McKay had no doubt as to what her ambitions in the sport were. 

“The Olympic Games is what I’ve worked my whole career for,” she says. 

“It means everything to me to get to the Olympics - I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little girl watching it on television.  

“I remember watching Torino in 2006 and watching the American skater Sasha Cohen and saying I want to do that. 

“So to be at this point now is pretty crazy.” 

That McKay is a Dundonian is certainly a stroke of luck.  

Dundee has established itself as a city which produces many of the UK’s very best figure skaters, down, in no small part, to the husband and wife team of Simon and Debbie Briggs who lead the skating set-up in the city. 

With McKay having relocated down south as a teenager, her performance plateaued and she was on the verge of quitting the sport entirely. 

However, a return to her home city reinvigorated her and from that point, she has gone from strength to strength, becoming a regular at World and European Championships for GB, as well as becoming a five-time British champion, the most recent of those titles coming just last month. 

Several of her closest rivals are also her training partners but rather than feel threatened by the strength of the Dundee skating group, McKay is in no doubt the competition has served her well. 

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“I always think it really helps having someone to bounce off of and having someone to push you on,” she says.  

“In any training environment, it’s a good thing – you even see it with the little ones trying to do what the girl next to them is doing.  

“So instead of not knowing what your rivals are doing and so maybe giving yourself a day off, they’re right there beside you so you never relax because your training partner is pushing you. 

“The coaching in Dundee is brilliant – I firmly believe Simon and Debbie are the best in Britain at what they do. There’s a great structure throughout from the little ones right up to the skaters at the top and so it’s a brilliant group to be a part of.” 

McKay has one last outing before she heads to Beijing; the European Championships, which begin today in Tallin. 

It will be her final chance to test herself in a competitive environment before she makes her Olympic debut and having scored a personal best in the short programme at the recent British Championships, she is in confident mood. 

And so having endured a hugely disrupted two years thanks to Covid, McKay admits she cannot overstate how glad she is to be in the Olympic home straight. 

“I feel in good shape and I’m excited to get a run-out before the Olympics. The programme I’ll do at the Europeans is probably what I’ll do at the Olympics so it’ll be good to see how it goes,” she says. 

“It’s been a pretty stressful year ahead of being selected so it was amazing to be named in the team and be so close now. 

“When I get to Beijing, I won’t set too many targets – I just want to have the best skate I can and whatever happens from there will happen.”