NATASHA McKAY has given up a lot to get to Beijing.

Not coming from an ice-skating family meant her path to becoming Britain’s top female skater was far from smooth.

At the age of only 12, she left her home in Dundee and moved to England in an attempt to achieve her dream of becoming an Olympian.

As a teenager, she rarely went on holiday and almost never went to friends’ birthday parties.

It made for a far from  normal childhood and there were times when McKay feared the sacrifices had been in vain.

But, as she prepares to make her Olympic debut, she is now in no doubt all the hard work has been worth it.

“I moved down south by myself when I was 12, staying with another family,” she says. “I’d be getting up at 5am to train before school then train after school too.

“Then my mum and dad moved down with my brother and sister because they thought it would be better for me so the whole family ended up relocating so it’s been a massive commitment for my whole family. 

“When I was 17, we moved back to Scotland and I just felt it wasn’t working. I wasn’t getting the jumps and I told my mum that’s it, I’m going to quit skating. I just didn’t think I was going to make it.

“But my coaches managed to persuade me to keep going and within about six months or so, I had all the jumps and everything totally turned around.

“So to be at the Olympics now, it’s a dream come true for all of them as well as me because they’ve put so much into it.”

Tomorrow, McKay will be GB’s lone representative in the women’s singles and goes into her first Olympic Games in the form of her life.

Her most recent competitive appearance, at the European Championships last month, resulted in some of the highest scores of her career and a best result of 17th overall.

That European Championships result came off the back of the 27-year-old claiming her fifth British title in December and with the psychological aspect of figure skating the difference between success and failure, McKay could not be in a better frame of mind.

“My performance at the Europeans has given me a lot of confidence heading into these Olympics which is huge because the mental side of this sport is, I think, one of the biggest factors,” she says.

“As soon as you go into a jump with any doubt, you end up missing it whereas if you attack the jump and really go for it, it normally goes well – you know you can do the jumps because you do them every day so you have to be mentally strong to make sure you do that in competition.”

McKay’s event is likely to be dominated by the Russians, but with figure skating one of the most popular events, there are likely to be millions watching her performance. That could be a daunting prospect, but McKay is unfazed.

“Being at the Olympics is, on paper at least, the same as the Worlds and Europeans – the rink is the same, the people are the same and so I’ll think about that, I won’t let myself think ‘oh my goodness, this is the Olympics’, I’ll try to treat it the same way I treat other events,” she says.

“It’s exciting, though, to think there’ll be so many people who don’t watch figure skating watching the Olympics – there might be an eight-year-old who’s never seen it before who watches it in Beijing and decides to go to the ice rink and try it and they might end up at the Olympics in 20 years. So it’s nice to think it might inspire people, but at the same time, I’ll just focus on the job I’m there to do.”

McKay began skating after an invite to a friend’s birthday party at their local ice rink.

A year of begging her mum for skates of her own finally paid off and quickly, McKay became a regular at the Dundee rink.

Having watched the Olympic Games in 2006, McKay quickly set her sights on becoming an Olympian herself and finally, she is about to fulfil her dream.

“At the last Olympics, GB didn’t have any singles skaters so it’s been eight years since the last British single skater was there so it’s a massive thing for me to be here,” she says. “This is what I’ve been dreaming of since I was a little girl so this is the absolute pinnacle for me.

“I’ve not set any targets in terms of placing. The only target I’ve set myself is that I want to skate clean and skate the best I can. 

“I’d like to qualify through to the free programme but if I skate the best I can then I can’t ask for any more than that at my first Olympics.”