Colin Ratushniak, the Thompson-born, Gillam-raised skater who landed a spot on the sixth season of Dancing on Ice, the second-highest-rated TV show in the United Kingdom, turned in a very impressive performance but ultimately feel short of winning the competition, finishing in second place out of an initial 16 teams.
“The show was a fantastic experience,” wrote Ratushniak in an email. “For my first year on the series, to have made it to the top two is absolutely incredible.”
The British version of Dancing on Ice – it has been adapted in eight different countries, including Italy and Chile – airs on the ITV network, and sees professional figure skaters team with celebrities, in a concept familiar to audiences on this side of the pond through shows such as Dancing with the Stars and Battle of the Blades.
Ratushniak's partner was Laura Hamilton, a host with the British version of children's TV network Nickelodeon. “Having Laura as my partner made the ride all that much better, and we have become the best of friends,” said Ratushniak. “I am so proud of how far Laura has come.”
Ratushniak and Hamilton – who had never met before the series – picked up the highest or tied-for-highest scores in four of the first 10 weeks of competition, earning a place in the semi-finals. After skating to an impressive score of 54.5 out of 60 that week, the pair made it into the final, where they were up against actor Sam Attwater and his partner Brianne Delcourt, as well as television host Chloe Madeley and her partner Michael Zenezini.
Of the professional skaters in the final, Delcourt – also Canadian, from Toronto – may have had an edge as this was her second season of the show, while the French Zenezini was, like Ratushniak, trying it out for the first time.
In the final, Ratushniak and Hamilton were allowed to pick one routine to perform, and had one song picked out for them. They chose “I'm So Excited”, which received the highest marks of any routine that season in their first go-around, and were also given Madonna's “Express Yourself”.
The show featured Britain's most famous figure skating duo, 1984 Olympic ice dance champions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, as mentors to the celebrities. The top two teams from the final – Ratushniak and Hamilton made that cut, as did Attwater and Delcourt – moved on to performing Torvill and Dean's classic Bolero routine.
Ultimately, the first Northern Manitoban to be featured on the show fell short – despite their second rendition of The Pointer Sisters' “I'm So Excited” being given a perfect 30 out of 30 by the judges, their total score for the finale was 56 out of 60, second to Attwater and Delcourt's 58. They can take some consolation in their average score of 26.8 out of 30 – nearly a full point higher than their closest competitors.
Ratushniak – who still considers himself “the boy next door who grew up in humble Manitoba” – is not in any way disappointed with finishing in second. “It was a fantastic final and any of the finalists were worthy winners of the trophy,” he noted.
Many professional skaters spend multiple seasons on the show – Matt Evers has been on all six seasons to date – and while Ratushniak isn't sure if he'll be invited back for a second year, he's already getting ready to head out on the show's tour of English arenas. “I'm completely exhausted, it's been non-stop emotions for the past six months – but I'm really excited to perform in large venues for up to 10,000 people,” he said. The tour begins Saturday in Sheffield, and runs through Newcastle, London, Manchester, Nottingham, and Birmingham for a total of 28 shows.
“I certainly learned a lot, and if I get the opportunity to do the show again next year, I will definitely know how to pace myself a bit more,” he said.
Ratushniak said that the biggest change to his life is that the show has turned him into a bit celebrity in the UK – his Twitter account has over 15,000 followers, and he expects it will take him weeks to read and reply to all of his fan mail. “It's extremely flattering and I am not taking any of this for granted,” he noted. “Who would have thought that 26 years later, I'd be on a show of this magnitude? It really goes to show that if you put your mind to something, you really can achieve it.”
Born in Thompson, Ratushniak moved to Gillam with his family at the age of two, which is when he first started ice skating thanks to some inspiration from an aunt who is a figure skating coach living in Lynn Lake. He took up figure skating when he was 12 years old and there were no longer enough hockey players in Gillam to make up a full team.
Ratushniak’s moves on the ice took him out of Northern Manitoba in 1998, when his family moved to Brandon, where he continued training and began his competitive career, reigning as the men’s provincial figure skating champion from 1998 to 2002 and capturing a bronze medal at the junior national competition in 2000.
Following high school graduation, Ratushniak made ice skating his job, joining Disney on Ice and touring to more than 300 cities in 30 countries on five continents.