A Mexican figure skater has made history by reaching the finals at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, becoming the first Mexican skater ever to reach the last round at the international competition of the world’s best athletes.
Donovan Carrillo, 22, will join 23 other skaters in the free skate program on Thursday — Wednesday night in North America — despite having spent his life training in Mexico without an ice rink suitable for high-performance athletes.
Medals in the individual figure skating competition are determined by combining the scores achieved in the short program and the free skate program.
Carrillo finished in 19th place in the short program on Tuesday with a personal record score of 79.69 and thus qualified for the free skate program, also known as the long program. It is something none of his compatriots had ever before achieved.
It has been far from plain sailing for the Guadalajara native, who grew up training on ice rinks in shopping malls. At age 12, he moved with his coach to León, Guanajuato, but was still without a professional rink to practice on.
His family sought sponsors but were rejected. In the end he was supported by friends and relatives, enabling him to travel to Europe to compete.
“Kisses to my family and to all Mexico, dreams really do come true,” he said after the routine.
“One of my first emotions when I finished the short program is that I didn’t want it to end. It was a very special moment, and I was enjoying to the fullest what I love most in life, which is skating … I’m very motivated to give my best in the long program,” Carrillo added.
The figure skater promoted Mexican culture in his performance: the rock ballad Black Magic Woman by Mexican American Carlos Santana, an artist whose music his father played to him as a child, accompanied his acrobatic routine. In the past, he has performed to the music of national treasure Juan Gabriel.
His eye-catching gold and black costume, composed of more than 17,000 crystals, was also of Mexican origin. It was designed by Édgar Lozano, also from Guadalajara, who crafted costumes for Miss Universe 2020, Andrea Meza.
Only three Mexicans have competed in figure skating at the Olympic Games: Ricardo Olavarrieta in 1988 and 1992, Diana Evans in 1988 and Mayda Navarro in 1992.
Donovan Carrillo’s short program performance, skating to the music of Santana.
With reports from El País and Cultura Colectiva