An Inspiring Young Woman
By Susan D. Russell

When 2001 Australian National Ladies Champion, 28 year-old Miriam Manzano, speaks about her current skating career, her enthusiasm is contagious. "I always knew when I was off the ice it was not the end, it was just a hiatus," she said referring to her 2-year self-imposed retirement. "When I returned to skating I started with a clean slate. I had a whole new mental approach to my skating. I decided every time I fell on a jump in training, I was going to get up and do it again. No excuses."

"In 1996 I felt I was not achieving my goals. I felt I was in an isolated environment and did not feel that I was getting the support I needed to continue. Also, I was so intent of proving myself, I was just not letting it happen naturally. It was so frustrating." Miriam recalls that her training in Colorado Springs with Kathy Casey "was an experience of a lifetime. The programs they had in place were so advanced. I absolutely loved it."

Her long-time coach, Aussie icon, Reg Park, knew she would regret it for the rest of her life if she did not fulfill her own desires and dreams. Miriam said she thought about returning to the ice for a long time, and then "I woke up at 5:00 one morning in May 2000 and thought, 'this is it, this is the day'. I laced up my skates - there was no one else at the rink. I will always remember the incredible feeling I had that morning. I was in tears. Finally! It was amazing. I felt 'free' for the first time."

"2000 Nationals were in August - that was only three months away. I set my sights on placing at that competition, so I worked very hard and prepared myself mentally as well as physically. I placed 2nd to Stephanie Zhang. After Nationals I was on such a high. I immediately returned to training and within a week had my triple loop back and withing four weeks had the triple lutz," she enthused.

"I skated in a couple of international competitions - Golden Spin and Four Continents - I was happy with my performances. It is a total thrill to be on the ice in front of people. I thrive on that exhiliarition."

I asked Miriam, "in order to return to the grind of training you must have been driven? Her response said it all. "I am living my dream."

Continuing, Miriam said "during the two-year break my body changed. I started attending at the gym where I did aerobics. Based on my result at 2000 Nationals I received a scholarship through the ACT Academy of Sport and began working with John Mitchell in an off ice training program. It changed every aspect of my life. On the ice, during this time, the triples just came to me so naturally. Things were just falling into place naturally. At each competition I felt I was skating at a higher level, faster and better than ever."

Asked about her feelings following 2001 Nationals she responded "I felt very confident. I think I was absolutely prepared mentally and physically to go there and win. I wanted to win, which is the best motivation. It was very exciting."

"After my free skate at Worlds I was so thrilled. It was the most unbelievable sensation," she said. "The program was over before I knew it. I did not want to get off the ice - I never wanted the moment to end. It was the best. You know when you seize every moment of an incredible experience? That is what I did. I achieved what I wanted to do. Considering I skate half the time on a small ice rink I was extremely satisfied."

Training at the Canberra Ice Skating Club, Miriam has chosen the haunting Concierto de Aranjuez (Rodrigo) for her short and excerpts from the Count of Monte Cristo (Shearmur) for her long. Long time friend, Cameron Medhurst, is choreographing her programs. Cameron currently skates professionally in a European ice spectacular.

Miriam has all her jumps and hope to include a tripletoe/triple toe in her long. She would also like to include a triple lutz/double or triple toe as well. "I need to concentrate on those triple combination jumps - you know, achieve the right balance so they are cleanly landed consistently."

Is competing at Turin in 2006 out of the question? "No, that is my goal. I knew that I was not going to Salt Lake City. I was disappointed but it was not the end of the world."

When asked about training overseas Miriam said that she would love to train with Richard Callaghan, Frank Carroll or Doug Leigh. Unfortunately, the prohibitive cost of training with internationally renowned coaches without sponsorship or funding, is often not possible.

Asked about her goals for the upcoming season, she responded "I would love a Grand Prix assignment, win Nationals and attain a top 10 placement at Worlds."

Her first goal has come a reality. Miriam has been invited to attend 2002 Skate America, the first event in the ISU Grand Prix Series. She is the first Australian woman to be invited to this prestigious event since the inception of the current ISU Grand Prix in 1996.

When I emailed Miriam to tell her she was to be invited to this event, her response was overwhelming. "I screamed with excitement and burst into tears! My co-workers ran over to me wondering what had happened as I'm usually pretty quiet. Then I let everyone know with much excitement! Many phone calls to my family, the Academy of Sport and friends. I'm still receiving calls and nice emails and it is so wonderful. This really does mean the world to me."

Congratulations to a wonderful young lady, a most deserving champion. People all over the world are behind you and we wish you the very best for the 2002-2003 season. Go skate your heart out!

And Miriam, thank you for brightening our world!