Ice and easy for skate champs
 
Hawkesbury Gazette
January 12, 2007. By Amanda Perry
 

They have been hooked on ice skating since they were kids aged seven and eight, and now at just 16 Cranebrook's Nicholas Fernandez and Glenmore Park's Mark Webster are set to compete at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival held in Sydney this January.

Attracting athletes from 21 nations, Nicholas and Mark, along with a late entrant from Western Australia, will be competing for a ticket to the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships held in Germany this March.

It is the first time in the Festival's four-year history figure skating is on the program.

The pair learned they had been selected for the Youth Olympics after competing at the Junior Men's National Championships in August last year, where Nicholas took the title and Mark bagged a bronze medal.

"I was really happy when I found out I'd be going, but it was more exciting because it's held in Australia," Nicholas said.

Mark said he was "stoked" when he found outhe was selected.

"I was aiming to go to the Junior World's, so getting an invitation to the Youth Olympics was important," he said.

Each morning they hit the gym and in the afternoon they skate. Both boys train six days a week anywhere between 15 to 20 hours a week, usually at the Penrith Ice Palace where they are members.

The competitive rivalry between the friends is sure to spur them on and bring out star performances when they begin competition on January 18. "It's a great thing, we're going to have a great time at the competition," said Mark. "Nicholas might have a few more tricks, but we're pretty much neck and neck."

Nicholas said despite their competitive streaks, he and Mark were good friends.
"Just because we compete together doesn't mean we have to fight, we get along alright, we talk and we're friends," Nicholas said.

Both have travelled overseas to train, Nicholas to the USA where he trained with Kathy Casey, and Mark to Canada where he attended the National Championships.

Australia's top female figure skater Jo Carter will be mentoring athletes at the Youth Olympics, and Mark believes she is the right person for the job. "She's achieved the most out of all the female skaters in the country so she knows what she's talking about," he said.

When school resumes Mark will be studying for the HSC and he will be tackling some difficult subjects including physics and biology.

Nicholas will be home schooled when he starts Year 11 this year because of his skating commitments, a decision that was made shortly after he won the Men's Nationals in 2006.

Mark has already discovered the hard work that comes with juggling his studies and skating.

"I've already had a dose of that at the end of last year with all of my assignments due at the same time," he said. "My priority is schoolwork – although I'd prefer it to be skating,"