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Rollerskating was Joan's passion

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Before Karen Daker could walk, a pair of roller skates were put on her feet and she was taught a few moves.

Her parents were British skating champions and her mother, Joan Preston, went on to run a number of clubs in the West Midlands.

However, on New Year's Eve Joan died suddenly from a stroke and the skating world turned out at her funeral earlier this year where they heard about the modest 75-year-old's achievements.

These included creating the Olympic Foxtrot, which is still used in British and International skating championships.

Karen, who lives in Codsall, says: "As a child I had to fit in around the skating as before I was born my parents had won the British championships five times.

"I've been told that I could skate before I could walk and that they used to put me in a baby walker with my skates on and let me go around by myself.

"My mum was skating for over 60 years and my dad Clive used to be her partner but she carried on for much longer than he did and ended up becoming a coach."

Towards the end of her life Joan lived in Willenhall but she grew up in Stubby Lane, Wednesfield.

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She started roller skating when her younger sister Barbara was diagnosed with polio and advised to do something active.

She started out at a rink in Wolverhampton but ended up at the Old Embassy in Birmingham where she was taught by Jean Phethean, a former world pairs champion.

"Both the girls enjoyed their new hobby, but it was my mum who ended up being bitten by the roller skating bug," says Karen, who is married to Mick and has two children – William, 5, and Georgina, 3.

"After splitting up from my father she went into coaching and ran a group called the Birmingham Olympic as well as Whispering Wheels in Wolverhampton and Alumwell Roller skating Club in Walsall."

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Joan's longest running school was at Alumwell in Walsall.

While she was coaching Joan managed to spot future skating champions including six times British champion Paul McIlhone.

Also in Walsall she trained British Champion Karen Jones who came second in the European Junior Figure Championship.

Joan's main job was working at castings company Barr & Grosvenor in Wolverhampton but her life was devoted to skating and her family.

Karen, 46, who is Joan's only child, says: "We had seen her on Christmas day and were having a laugh about the children enjoying the boxes more than the toys.

"A few days later I had tried to contact her and couldn't get hold of her and she had suffered a massive stroke.

"In a way it has gone the best way for her as if she'd had a mild stroke and hadn't been able to skate she would've hated it – every time she came to see us she had a tale to tell about her skating.

"Mum was a top coach, but she still had time for the beginners.

"She was very modest – people at the funeral were amazed when they heard what she had done during her career as a skater."

Karen, who works part-time as a school bursar at Whitgreave Junior School, says there are plans to continue running a skating club at Walsall. "At my mum's funeral a lot of her old pupils turned up and they had some great stories about the time they had spent with her," she says.

"She was very generous with her grandchildren and if I had asked her to help out she would have dropped whatever she was doing.

"My family has been overwhelmed by the touching tributes we have received.

"Family and friends are planning to hold a memorial roller skate in memory of my mum in the next few months and would like to invite old pupils to come along."

Joan, who also enjoyed tai-chi at Wednesfield Library, helped to form the Roller Skating Federation of Great Britain in 1978.

The aim was to give young teachers instruction to help them train skaters to a degree of excellence.

But after 17 years of service it was not recognised officially by the governing body and Joan was heartbroken at its demise.

Karen adds: "She continued to attend courses for teaching skating at home and abroad and was probably one of the highest qualified people in her chosen field in the country.

"She felt very strongly that great skaters were born at the beginning of learning and that was when they needed the right kind of education and training.

"In 1979 as National Coach for the National Skating Association in their centenary year she attended a Buckingham Palace garden party – but hardly anyone knew about this as she kept her achievements to herself.

"She was dedicated to artistic roller skating and will be missed by her family and all her students and colleagues."

Anyone interested in taking part in the memorial roller skate in memory of Joan Preston can go to the Walsall Artistic Roller Skating Club website at www.walsallrollers.co.uk

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