A woman from Bretton will be taking part in the 2022 Women’s Bandy World Championships in Sweden this week - with the support of her fiancé who is also her assistant coach.
Clare Ledbury, 32, was a keen ice skater from the age of ten and was originally dared by her friend to try ice hockey at 15.
Later on she started playing bandy, which is played with a ball instead of a puck, and will be competing in her first championship match tomorrow (23 March).
The sport dates back to the early 1800s and is most popular in Scandinavia and Russia.
The GB women’s bandy team - who will be competing in Åby - will be the first ever women’s team to represent the nation in the sport.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” Ms Ledbury, who is also the vice president of the Great British Bandy Association, said. “It’s such a privilege to be part of the first team GB women’s bandy team.
“We’ve all trained really hard and are excited to get on the ice. We have all bonded really well as a team already - even though we all come from different parts of the UK.
“We’re all looking forward to getting on the ice and seeing what we can do.”
One of the recognised birthplaces of the sport is Bury Fen, in Cambridgeshire - the former home of Bury Fen Bandy Club, which closed in 1901, and the current base of the Great Britain Bandy Association.
The World Championships were originally set to be held in Stockholm in January 2022 - but it was postponed because of Covid.
“We were all gutted when it was postponed because we had put in so much hard work to get to where we were in January.
“Because ice time is very expensive and the capacity to train was quite limited, a lot of the girls, including myself, trained really hard off the ice as well.
“We were all disappointed that it got delayed but at the same time it has given everyone an extra couple of months to train, so we’ve all put in the extra effort over the last few months to be in even better shape than we were in January.”
Ms Ledbury’s fiancé Tom Parker, 41, is vice president of the Great British Bandy Association - and helped to reintroduce the sport to the UK in 2018.
“The women’s team is like a springboard for us,” he said. “The main thing is that we need to raise awareness for the sport and how incredible this story is - this is the first ever Great British women’s bandy team.
“With this being such a historic event for us to have a women’s team competing this year, the idea to promote the sport was supposed to be twofold. We were supposed to have a men's championships in April, which was set to take place in Russia.
“Our men’s team were odds on favourites to win a gold medal in Russia but it’s since been cancelled. We hope next year they might bring it to Sweden.”
The women’s tournament will now take place between March 23 - 27.
Team GB will play their first fixture in Group B, against Switzerland, on Wednesday (23 March) at 10am, UK time - before taking on Estonia and the Netherlands.
Norway, Finland, and the United States will challenge current holders Sweden in Group A.
There were originally ten nations competing in the tournament, but both Russia and Ukraine are no longer competing because of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.