from Down Under
By Steve Milton.
The Hamilton Spectator, Monday January 19, 2004
you're wondering just how important figure skating is
in Australia, consider the national team's uniforms.
athletes had to pay for the outfits themselves.
is one of the many International Skating Union countries
where skaters must clear high hurdles to make any kind
of international impact. Distance alone makes it difficult
for Australian skaters, especially when they're young,
to face the kind of steady competition which fosters rapid
development. Fewer top international skaters pass through
on tour to provide frequent inspiration and, when we're
in the height of skating season in the northern hemisphere,
Australians are sweltering through summer.
was about 30 degrees when I left on Boxing Day,"
says Australian women's champion Miriam Manzano, who also
encountered 30 degrees - below zero - in Barrie as she
trained at the Mariposa Club the past two weeks in preparation
for the Four Continents Championship.
came here because I get to rub shoulders with the best
(Takeshi Honda, Jennifer Robinson, Jeffrey Buttle et al.)
It just inspires you to work harder and get better."
28, Manzano is one of the oldest singles skaters on the
international scene, but she's been rejuvenated since
returning to the sport in 2000 after a self-imposed two-year
2002, she finished 16th at the world championships, the
best Australian finish since Joanne Carter (also here
this week) was 11th seven years ago. In 2003, Manzano
dropped to 25th in the world, but when you hear the details
you also understand why.
grew up in Canberra, where elite skating is a foreign
concept. She would skate at dawn for an hour or two, then
go to work all day at the Attorney-General's office, and
come back for another session at 7 p.m., all the while
being the only skater who was even attempting triple jumps.
The rink isn't regulation size, the compression units
don't work well, she would have to skate with hordes of
little kids during training sessions, and the ice rarely
that's when things were going well.
last year's Great Canberra Fires, her coach's house burned
down, understandably distracting his attention. And the
arena was closed.
when they got it going again, the ice had melted,"
she laughs. "I realised I couldn't compete at this
level without better training and I couldn't put more
into the training because we couldn't get more ice in
felt like I was working full-time and skating part-time."
for this season she moved to Brisbane and well-respected
caoch Colin Jackson. She's enthused and figures she made
the right decision to return to the sport and stay until
the 2006 Games. She's won three straight national titles,
adding to the first she won a decade ago.
started on roller skates and didn't take figure skating
lessons until she was 12, and didn't land a triple until
she was 18, but now she's got all of them, plus a triple
lutz/double toe loop combination.
came up quickly, won the senior nationals, and then I
hit a wall and I was always coming second to Joanne,"
she says. "I felt like I hit a wall. When I left
I didn't think it would be for two years. Then, one morning,
I said, 'I'm ready.'"
to be an Australian international figure skating is to
be a lonely figure skater.
this week at Copps coliseum, it'll be like a convention
of the Salchow Set's Down Under chapter. There are, as
usual, more Australian figure skaters at the Four Continents
than any other even outside their own continent, largely
because entry limits aren't based on past performances
as they are at world championships.
are three women's entrants, three men's and two dance
teams from Australia. Some of them, such as men's champion
Bradley Santer and dance champs Natalie Buck and Trent
Nelson-Bond train full time in the U.S., and others, such
as Carter, are frequent visitors to North American coaches.
of us are out of the country trying to rub shoulders with
the best skaters," Manzano says.