When Natasha McKay steps on to the ice of Beijing hoping for the perfect score on her Winter Olympics debut, the figure skater will proudly sport a little number from Dundee as a comforting reminder of home.
A special outfit for an unforgettable occasion, designed by a former rival turned fashion designer who is now a key member of her back-up team.
“Jodi Easson used to compete against me but she went into fashion design and quit skating,” the 27-year-old said, speaking before her first Olympic appearance.
“Now she makes my dresses.
“I was the first person that she’d done it for. Now everyone in Dundee gets their dresses from her.
“We put more time into designing these ones, though.
“She’s made them a little bit more special for the Olympics with some new stones.”
Some of the shine of this year’s event has been dulled by the doping controversy surrounding 15-year-old Russian Kamila Valieva, who will be allowed to continue following a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday that a provisional suspension for the positive test she produced from December 2021 “would cause her irreparable harm”.
The world record holder, Valieva will now be hot favourite for gold – even if she might still be stripped of the crown and the team title Russia acquired last week at a later date.
But McKay, in Easson’s dresses, is ready to sparkle with a billion faces watching on.
Her driving ambition is to impress in her initial short programme, beat the cut and survive through to the medal battle in Thursday’s free skate.
Falling in love with Winter Olympics
Although a parade on the podium is the longest of shots for McKay, there are other big wins up for grabs.
The Games offer an opportunity to inspire, as she knows first-hand.
“I watched the 2006 Olympics on TV because my mum loved watching figure skating.
“She had it on and I saw the American skater Sasha Cohen, and just loved it. I was like, ‘Mum, I want to go there. I want to go to the Olympics.’
“The whole atmosphere of it, I just fell in love with it.”
There will be a group of spectators who may be begging a look at a school TV this morning or have set their recorders in advance.
The young girls (and a few boys) who McKay coaches back at Dundee Ice Arena who, she hopes, will be moved to become the Olympians of the future.
Having a role model on their doorstep may make an extraordinary dream seem far less possible.
Dreams of inspiring next generation
“I was training with Jenna McCorkell, who went to the 2010 Olympics,” she recounts. “And that was me. I wanted to be her at that time when I was training with her.
“And now I’m there, and all the other little skaters at the rink are training with me in the mornings.
“So they’re seeing what it takes to go to the Olympics.
“And hopefully, that’ll be an inspiration to them. And they’ll come up – and we’ll have another little girl or boy from Dundee going to the Olympics.”
McKay will dance to a musical piece called Sea Lion in her opener, chosen by her Canadian choreographer Mike Pillay whose services were paid out of a National Lottery grant.
“I’ve always tried to compete to get where I want to get to,” she declares. “I am quite a competitive person at everything.
“But I think that comes with sport as well. I feel like most athletes are quite competitive at what they do.”
Pride of Dundee
Former Olympic champion Robin Cousins has urged her to lean on her consistency and let the ice chips fall where they may.
“If I skate a clean programme, I will be proud,” McKay underlines.
“When I get off the ice, then it’s out of my hands from there. It’s a judged sport.
“So it’s up to the judges at that point.
“But if I please myself, I would be proud of that.”