How Lady Gaga inspired Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson to European silver

Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson's year has been all about expectations – challenging them, exceeding them and sometimes letting go of them.

The ice dance duo's 2022 began with them making their Olympic debut in Beijing, finishing in 10th place with routines set to a Kiss medley and songs from The Lion King.

But it is their free dance to ‘Born This Way’ by Lady Gaga that put them on the map and eventually win European silver, Britain's best performance at the Championships since Torvill and Dean.

For the duo, the songs they dance to are a reflection of both of their personalities.

“With Born This Way, the message is what drove the choice, because we've really grown into who we are as humans, through our partnership and through our experiences in this sport,” said Fear.

“We've become more comfortable in our skin as performers, being able to express ourselves, being unapologetically out there.

“It felt like time for us to hopefully be a vehicle for that really empowering message.

"And we got to see Lady Gaga live and just to see her delivery, her conviction, and the way that she inspires people, if we can do that in any tiny degree that would just be such a huge accomplishment for us.”

Gibson, who hails from Prestwick, particularly relates to Lady Gaga’s lyrics having described coming out as gay as a freeing experience.

He said: “Often in this sport, you're trying to fit into a style or a type of rhythm of music and I think in that choice and after seeing Lady Gaga really owning the way that she moves, it's so unique to her.

“That gave us the opportunity and took the pressure off and it allowed us to just dance the way that we wanted to dance and feel the music.

“I think that that's so cool and allows our authenticity to come out on the ice.”

The pair have built up a passionate fan following and nowhere was the support for them stronger than in Sheffield.

The Steel City played host to the UK's first-ever senior figure skating Grand Prix and Fear and Gibson, who joined together as a duo in 2016, were the star attraction.

"It was a dream come true for both of us and we had expectations that it might be a little more emotional and have so much more energy, but it exceeded even that,” Fear said.

“I think we both really felt the heartwarming energy from the crowd and so much support and we've never experienced an entire crowd supporting us before.

“It was really special and we were really proud to host the other teams and other skaters, they had such a great experience too and we really hope that it's something that can happen again in future years.”

Gibson and Fear left Sheffield with a silver medal and a place in the Grand Prix Final, becoming the first British team to qualify for the Final since John and Sinead Kerr in 2009.

“The crowd were amazing for everyone, all the other skaters commented on how loud they were and that they were really getting into their performances,” Gibson added.

“I think it's a testament to how many people still love skating in the UK and just how much they were wanting it to come back.

“For us, it was overwhelming, the noise level and, as Lilah said, it was just sheer love.

“We often get good appreciation in other countries, but here it was just off the charts.”

The duo finished behind Italian pairing Charléne Guignard and Marco Fabbri in Sheffield who also took European gold in Espoo, Finland.

Fear’s reaction to their first stint at the top of the standings is emblematic of how she and Gibson approach their skating, always searching for the fun.

“It's hilarious, I screenshotted the article and the standings, because it's something that we never expected to see, it's surreal,” she said.

“Obviously, it was just because of standing points, not necessarily placement, but it's cool to see that that's even possible itself and gives us hope and encouragement for the next steps for us.”

Fear and Gibson’s final milestone of 2022 was their fourth place on debut in the Grand Prix Final and they went on to silver at the European Championships, the first time Britain have won a medal at the event since 2014.

After that, all roads lead to Milano Cortina and the 2026 Olympics with the pair admitting even in Beijing that their focus was on a potential second Olympic appearance.

For Fear, each experience in this Olympic cycle is a milestone and a gemstone to amass to ensure the pair sparkle as brightly on the Olympic stage as the jewels on her J.Lo-inspired dress.

She said: “We are collecting all of these lessons along the way as little gems that we can keep in our pockets for a random summer competition, or a Grand Prix or the next Olympics.

“I think everything's a learning experience, but just knowing there's so much more growth for us and having that time in our vision is really exciting.”

Sportsbeat 2023