WHEN Dancing on Ice returned to ITV after a four year hiatus in 2018, professional Frankie Poultney couldn't wait to get her skates on.
But she was left angry and disappointed when TV bosses made the skaters audition for the role, before ditching her by email.
Three years on, in an exclusive chat with Frankie and husband David Seaman to mark their new roles as ambassadors for the British Heart Foundation, the former DOI star says losing her TV job has made her life happier.
“The show was really great to me for the first 10 years but when it came back, there was a lack of communication,” she tells The Sun .
“But entertainment is really difficult – one day you're hot, the next you're not.
“I was coming to the end of my career anyway and it was difficult to deal with not being a professional skater anymore, because that defined me since I was 10 years old.
“But I have been on tour my entire life, living out of two suitcases and working every Christmas and birthday, so to be at home felt like a huge luxury for me.
“I loved that life at the time. But now being able to come home at night is a huge blessing and I probably appreciate it more than most, because I’ve never had that.
“I feel so lucky, because I have a lovely home situation and I've got a great husband.”
At the time of the axe Frankie – who met former goalie David, 58, through the show – slammed bosses for dumping the pros with the same email calling it “disrespectful and disparaging”.
She also said the treatment had been “heartbreaking” because she “lived and breathed the show.”
But speaking at their Berkshire home Frankie – who laughingly describes herself as ‘small and gobby’ – says she’s put the row behind her, even though she no longer watches the show.
“I'm not really the type of person who just sits down quietly and goes 'oh ok’,” she says.
“Anybody who knows me would say I'm a force of nature, but I'm always fair. There were a lot of poorly handled situations, but people move on.
“The transition was hard, to not be able to say 'I'm a professional skater'. But I'm 48 for God's sake, I can't say that for the rest of my life.
“Nobody wants to see a middle-aged woman in Lycra knickers on their telly on a Sunday night.”
The couple – who are presenting a gong at the Heart Hero Awards tonight – met in 2007, when Frankie was partnered with David’s pal Lee Sharpe on her debut year on Dancing On Ice, a year after his own stint on the show.
But romance blossomed a year later on the show's live tour.
“The attraction was there straight away, as obviously it needs to be – and that attraction is still there right now,” David explains sweetly.
Both born in Yorkshire the couple, who wed in 2015, radiate warmth and affection for each other, with laughter and easy banter punctuating their conversation.
“Everybody loves David when they first meet him,” says Frankie. “He's got such an infectious laugh. He's so funny all the time. He's always happy.
“We're both from South Yorkshire – he’s from Rotherham and I’m from Sheffield – so we connected on that level and we found we had a lot in common, because we’re both athletes, we've both toured our whole lives and we have the same sense of humour.
“We're so lucky we found each other.”
“We're so lucky we found each other”
After 13 years, the pair have managed to keep the flame alive and say spending more time together during lockdown was a blessing.
“We make each other laugh every day and we have a great time together,” says David.
“In lockdown, we had a fantastic time starting some home projects, lots of DIY, and I even learned to bake sourdough.”
Frankie, David’s third wife, is proud of the relationship she has with his grown up children Dan, 35, Thomas, 33, Georgina, 20 and Robbie, 19.
“I'm really blessed that I have a really good relationship with my stepkids because I know sometimes blended families can be a difficult dynamic,” she says.
“The older ones were adults when I first met them and the younger two have grown from being eight and nine years old to adults during that time. They’ve all got mums so they've never needed me to be a second parent in their lives by any means.
“But I sleep well at night, knowing they would say that I've always treated them with respect and welcomed them with open arms into the house.”
Tragedy behind support for heart charity
Now both retired from their respective sports, the couple spend much of their time doing charity work, including a long term involvement with the British Heart Foundation and the charity’s Heart Hero Awards.
The annual ceremony, held virtually this year, is hosted by the BHF to recognise and honour incredible people.
From researchers and doctors, to brave children who have fought dangerous heart conditions, this year’s Heart Hero Awards is celebrating those who have supported the BHF through the pandemic, which the charity says has been the toughest time in their 60 year history.
Their support for the charity was borne out of personal experience and tragedy, in particular the death of Sir David Frost’s son Miles, at the age of 31.
Arsenal legend David, a close friend of the late broadcaster and his family, was devastated when Miles collapsed and died from an undiagnosed heart condition while running near his Oxfordshire home in 2015.
The tragedy came two years after the legendary broadcaster died of a heart attack at 74 while onboard the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship.
“Miles and his brothers George and Will were three young lads who were enjoying life and Miles was superfit, and training for a marathon at the time,” says David.
“He died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and had it been diagnosed he would still be here.
“We want to get more awareness out there and get more people to check themselves out because sometimes you don't feel anything, and then all of a sudden that happens.
“That and the collapse of Christian Erikson from a cardiac arrest in the Euros, this summer, brought home that it can happen to anyone, no matter how young and fit you are.”
David met the chat show host, an avid Arsenal fan, after saving three penalties in a shootout against Sampdoria and being invited onto his TV show the following day.
He is godson to Sir David’s youngest son George and close to his widow, Lady Carina.
“They're a brilliant family and they’ve been through a lot," he says.
"I don't know how they coped with two massive bereavements in the family. I suppose you learn to live with it, but they will never forget Miles.”
To help with their grief, the family set up the Miles Frost Fund, under the umbrella of the BHF, and raised millions for research and screening.
The fund helped roll out a programme to test family members of anyone who has died with the same condition Miles had, which hadn't been available before. They were instrumental in finding the fault in a 14-year-old boy which saved his life.
Heart scare as young footballer
The couple had heart scares themselves, with David developing an irregular heartbeat at 38, while still a professional player, and Frankie being diagnosed with a leaky heart valve in her 40s.
“I started getting heart flutters and palpitations but I was lucky because I talked to the medics at Arsenal and they made sure I got it sorted out,” he says.
“I had an operation where they try to freeze burn a part of your heart, which sounds really traumatic, but it's not as painful as it sounds. I was awake when it was happening.
“That reset the heart for a little while, and then it went back to the irregular rhythm and my surgeon said there are risks in trying again. But it’s completely controlled by medication so it doesn’t stop me doing anything.”
Frankie, who was born with her minor heart defect, now has regular check ups but has not needed surgery.
As retired athletes, both know the importance of exercise and healthy living for the heart – Frankie took up Wu Shu, a form of Kung Fu, in lockdown and David is a keen cyclist, riding for two or three hours at a time.
He has also completed numerous charity bike rides including a 100 mile London to Brighton race for the Foundation.
“He couldn’t walk for about three days afterwards,” laughs Frankie. “But he was styling out the Lycra.”
Looking forward to the awards tonight, Frankie says she wants to highlight all the amazing work being done by medical teams and researchers to advance treatment of heart and other conditions.
“Fundraising has been so hard due to COVID so it’s more important than ever to get the funding for the research,” she says.
“The charity funds such amazing work and has helped develop life-saving treatments such as stents, but they also do a lot of research into vascular issues which cause dementia and strokes.
“The awards mean a lot to us because they celebrate everyday people that don't normally get recognised, from scientists and fundraisers to people with heart conditions, and it covers people from all walks of life.”
To watch the Heart Hero Awards, go to the British Heart Foundation website.
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