Australian Ice Skaters
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By Susan D Russell

Following the unprecedented success of two of Australia's top ice skaters last season, 28 year old Canberra resident, Miriam Manzano, 2001 Australian National Ladies Champion and Queenslander, Anthony Liu, 2001 Australian National Mens Champion, have been invited to compete at the 2002 Skate America Grand Prix event in Spokane, Washington this October.

Skate America is the first of six prestigious, invitational only Grand Prix events, the others being held in Canada, Germany, France, Russia and Japan, culminating in the Grand Prix Final to be held in St. Petersburg, Russia in February 2003. All participating skaters earn points for placements at their assigned events with the top six point scorers in each discipline advancing to the Final.

At the 2002 World Championships in Japan, Manzano skated into 16th place out of 24 women, surprising even herself. She is the first Australian woman to be invited to Skate America since the inception of the Grand Prix series in 1996.

Skate America is considered one of the top Grand Prix events, drawing people such as the 2002 Olympic champions, American Sarah Hughes and Russian, Alexei Yagudin.

In the 2001-2002 season, Anthony Liu had a season of historical firsts. He placed 4th at the Goodwill Games in Brisbane in September, where many felt he should have won the bronze medal. His 10th place finish at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games marked 50 years almost to the day since Adrian Swan placed 10th at the 1952 Olympics in Oslo, Norway. Liu went on to the 2002 Worlds in Japan, placing 7th. It was the first time an Australian man had placed in the top 10 since 1912 when Dunbar Poole placed 6th in Manchester, England. Liu's success has secured two spots for Australian men at the 2003 World Championships in Washington, DC next March.

Manzano and Liu are two of the most popular skaters among their peers and fans internationally. They represent a rising interest in the sport of ice skating in Australia. There are many other young skaters across the country (Bradley Santer, Stephanie Zhang, Daniel Harries, Stuart Beckingham, Emilia Ahsan and Lauren Winsborrow) who are progressing through the international ranks.

As with all winter sports, corporate funding for ice skaters is almost non-existent which prohibits many of these talented and dedicated athletes from attending training camps abroad and thus, are denied the opportunities of skaters from other nations who, with financial backing, are able to train overseas with the best coaches among the best skaters in the world.

The success of Steven Bradbury and Alisa Camplin at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games should prove to Australian corporations that financial sponsorship of Australian athletes involved in winter sports is a solid investment in the future.