February 28, 2024

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From a murdered fellow student to 'it just didn't click at all': the unlikely story of a Belgian ice dancing couple at the European Figure Skating Championships |  More sports

From a murdered fellow student to 'it just didn't click at all': the unlikely story of a Belgian ice dancing couple at the European Figure Skating Championships | More sports

Figure skating involves more disciplines than you might think. There are four: men, women, horse riding and ice dancing. Our country leads the world among women, but among men we have been waiting for new talent since Kevin van der Buren and Juric Hendriks. But now there is also ice dancing, which only became an Olympic event in 1976.

An actual Belgian duo at the European Ice Dancing Championships. despite of. Leo Payten is from Huillart, and his partner, Olivia Schilling, is American. “We ski under the Belgian flag because we get more opportunities here, and Leo wants to make the sport popular in his home country,” explains Schilling.


Their story is improbable. Payten trained mainly in France and Europe, but was looking for a new partner at the beginning of 2022. He ended up at Schilling through an American coach. A 26-year-old American who also works as a teacher. “In April 2022, we skated together for a test. But it didn't click at all. We didn't agree on the dance steps and the choice of music.” “We were convinced after that to never skate together again,” Schilling adds.

Peyton continued with another skater, but she was injured and stopped skating. The talented Belgian wanted to salvage his season and try again with Schilling. “I don't know how it happened, but suddenly it worked.”

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© Agence France-Presse

The duo primarily trains in Novi, Michigan. “I always have to apply for a visa to travel to the United States, so sometimes we have to go to Europe to train. Because we don’t have enough ice in Belgium, we have to move to Germany or Italy.”

Payten and Schilling entered a competition together after only three months of training. Bavarian Open in Oberstdorf. They performed surprisingly well, finishing ninth, unexpectedly qualifying for the 2024 European Championships.

A week later they performed even better in Italy, earning them a ticket to the World Cup. They finished the World Cup second-bottom, but it was also a wave of emotions. “We arrived three days late because I had COVID,” Payten said. And it became more dramatic. “On the day of the competition I heard that one of my students had been killed in the United States. However, we had to get on the ice.


Skating wasn't always the focus back then. It made their bond stronger. Today the duo was born again at the European Championships in Lithuania. They rose to prominence with their modern music in the 1990s. The level difference with the Absolute World Summit is still very large at the moment. They placed 33rd and last in rhythmic dancing. Payten and Schilling still lack a lot of quality and experience at this level. But the most important thing is to enjoy the ice, and we succeeded.

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From tension in the wings to daring swing of the legs: this is how Luena Hendricks charmed the fans and the judges in the short freestyle

look. Louena Hendricks steals the show at the jury table: “Everyone is talking about it, so the plan was a success.”