Australian figure skater Cheltzie Lee qualifies for ladies final at Winter Olympics
 
Article by Carly Crawford in Vancouver and Holly Byrnes, The Daily Telegraph
25 February, 2010
 

Lee, the pretty 16-year-old from Campbelltown, competes to honour Morgan, one of the victims of the 2007 Sydney ferry crash.

Yesterday, Lee did Morgan's memory - and her friends back home at Canterbury Ice Rink - proud.

The former gymnast smashed her previous personal best by seven points, scoring 52.16 for her routine to Michael Buble's Feeling Good to qualify for tomorrow's final.

"I am sure she would be so proud of me, I wish she was here with me," Lee said. "It's the best score I've ever gotten in my short program and it's the perfect time to do it at the Olympics."

Her spectacular performance gives her entry to the free skate final, where she will compete with 23 of the best women on ice, including the almost unbackable Kim Yuna from South Korea.

Lee entered the competition ranked 26th, but her clean routine yesterday vaulted her to 18th.

Friends and support staff at Canterbury, where Lee has trained since the age of five, cheered her on.

Lee was not oblivious, sending her friends back home a shout out as she waited for her score to register.

Head coach Kylie Fennell, in Vancouver with her young charge, was thrilled Lee will contest the free skate final on Friday, with hopes of a top 20 finish.

"Tonight she even surprised me with her confidence and maturity," Olympic Winter Institute figure skating co-ordinator Belinda Noonan said.

"This is significant because she scraped in here as third reserve - it was by luck that she got here."

Her skating friends were equally excited, most whispering they'd wagged school to watch their Games hero in action. Aspiring ice dancer Patrick Adderley, 16, said Lee's achievement would bring much needed attention to the sport and her home rink.

"It's good if the publicity gets the rink some funding," he said. "It would be nice to skate without rust falling on us from the roof."

Rink organisers have applied for a NSW grant to update facilities.

Lee's efforts should now earn them that reward.

Phoebe Di Tomasso, who finished third behind Lee at this year's Australian championships, hit training with extra vigour yesterday.

"To pull it all together on the day that counts is pretty amazing. She did really well," the 19-year-old, who is eyeing a place at the 2014 Games, said.

Not content to see his sister take all the reflected glory, younger brother and fellow skater Dominic, who recently returned from training in Queensland, shared his own Cheltzie story.

"I should tell you I dated her once," he offered, with a boastful grin, before his sister added "but you can't have a relationship over text."