Johnson Beharry, the war hero and Dancing on Ice star talks to TV Times magazine on his difficult and inspiring journey from soldier to skater…
What is it like living your life in the glare of media publicity now?
“I still class myself as a normal infantry soldier. Yes I won a big award, but I don’t let it take over. Nothing in my life is different – it’s things around me that have changed.”
And being recognised all the time?
“It’s actually really good because now I’m getting to use that power to help others and to show them what they could do if they put their mind to it.’
What does Dancing on Ice mean to you?
“For me the programme isn’t about competing, it’s about healing myself so I can help others to do the same. I am here to show everyone who has an injury that there is life after what happened to them. They just need to adjust and work within their limits and then they can achieve what they set out to do.”
And what about the response you have had?
“It has been overwhelming. A lot of people have been asking for my advice and I’ve been speaking to them on Twitter. Every comment has been positive – people say I inspire them. I thank them and continue my journey.”
How tough is the training?
“Tough, but the training is really aiding my recovery. I treat it more as rehab than a competition. Every day I’m doing something new and I’m getting stronger, not only as a skater but within myself – physically and mentally.”
What was your first day on the ice like?
“I’d never seen an ice rink in real life before – only on television. I didn’t even know what skates looked like. The first day the coach Karen Barber was there to help me. She held me, and it took half an hour for us to travel five yards. I was just trying to stay standing!”
And what happened at your first assessment with British Olympic champion Diane Towler?
“When she saw me she said, ‘What have they done? There’s no way I can get you ready, there’s not enough time!'”
So how did you manage to make that first performance?
“I was determined. I wanted to achieve something and the only way to do that was by motivating myself. I have the drive to succeed, which is why you see progress every week.”
Is it still difficult because your head injuries have left you with short-term memory loss?
“We train at quite a hard pace and sometimes it’s too quick for me to process the information so I get frustrated. I can train one day and the next day I come back to the rink and can’t remember anything. You only have six hours to put the routine together so it’s really hard. My shoulder affects me quite a lot, but I don’t let it stop me. I’m more comfortable with lifts now and I don’t feel the weight because I’ve learned the technique.”
Do you get nervous before you go on?
“I’ve been to war so I don’t have nerves and I really enjoy skating – it’s the best sport I’ve ever done. Before a show I have a shower to keep me cool because I’m too hyper! There’s too much running around and if I get too hot it increases my pain. I am focused and pushing myself to the limit. When I’m given a routine I have to get it right. No matter how much Jodeyne says she’s happy, I would never accept that. I always think I can make more improvements on it.”
You and Jodeyne seem very close. How has she helped you?
“Tremendously. She understands how I work because her husband and partner [fellow Dancing on Ice professional] Sean Rice once suffered a brain injury from skating. She’s had to deal with it before so she knows how to communicate with me.”
Have you made any other friends on the show?
“I get on really well with all the contestants, but the relationship between me and Vanilla Ice is different. We have the same sense of humour. The other day we went bowling, then to McDonalds, and then to his house where we watched a movie till 2am. After the show I’m going to go on a cruise and he says he’s going to come along with me so we’re definitely going to keep in touch!”