YOUNGSTERS with disabilities and learning difficulties have received national acclaim after opening a synchronised ice skating championships with one of their routines.

Sixteen skaters from Slough’s Special People on ICE (SPICE) opened the Lee Valley Synchronised Skating Championships last Monday, by performing a Beauty and the Beast routine.

The synchronised skaters, which include children and young people with conditions such as Autism, Down’s syndrome and Global Development Delay, were given a standing ovation at the national competition in London after executing the exhibition skate.

They had been invited especially to open the one-day championships with the routine and carried it out flawlessly.

SPICE founder, Jo Hodgson, 58, of Datchet, said: “They skated their hearts out – they absolutely loved doing it. People were off their seats cheering – it was brilliant.

“The announcer asked them to come back on and they were presented with an outstanding achievement award.”

Mrs Hodgson said her daughter Annie, 20, who coaches the SPICE-synchro team, cried after seeing their performance. One of the girls in the team, Windsor’s Vivi Gregory-Osborne, 11, has cerebral palsy.

Mrs Hodgson said all of the team received individual medals as well as the award.

SPICE is one of only two synchronised skating teams in the whole of the UK for youngsters with special needs - and the only one that also offers ice hockey and regular learn to skate.

Three of the sixteen were there as supporting skaters to some of the youngsters, some of whom require physical help.

Mrs Hodgson said the opportunity to open the championships came about after a Lee Valley synchronised team donated a set of yellow costumes for SPICE’s members to use.

The team has already skated at the opening of The British Synchronised Skating Championships in successive years , gaining many plaudits.

Mrs Hodgson added: “All of the regular teams from other places are very supportive of us and Lee Valley is one of those who have donated to us.”