Donovan Carrillo in training
Just getting close to the rink is enough to send icy shivers down many a spine. Yet it doesn't seem to bother the skaters in the least; what's more, they enjoy it. They move through the white space with agility and mastery, spinning through the air as if Mother Nature never intended for them to walk the actual ground.
Figure skating is the oldest sport on the Olympic Winter Games program since the first Winter Olympics in 1924. It was previously contested, however, at the 1908 London Summer Games and again in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium. Among the sport's current young talents, there is one who stands out for his ability and smile: He is no other than Donovan Carrillo, the Mexican figure skater qualified to participate in the upcoming Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, which will launch on February 4.
On the up and up
November 17, 2021, not only marked the semi-finals of the 35th National Figure Ice Skating Tournament of Mexico in which this young athlete was participating, but also denoted a very special day for Carrillo: his 22nd birthday. Of those 22 years, he has spent 14 practicing on the ice. Born in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Carrillo took up figure skating when he was 8; prior to that, he had already become well-versed in other sports such as gymnastics, diving and soccer.
"What made me fall in love with skating is that I can express my feelings through the movement. It's not just about the technical complexity, as is the case with diving, but out here you can actually express yourself and let your body feel the music, feel the movement."
True. This competitor stands out because of the music he chooses to accompany his appearances. In 2016, he became famous for his performance in Japan to the song Hasta que te conocí (Until I Met You) by well-known Mexican singer Juan Gabriel. Since then, Carrillo's popularity has only gone up, and not just among those who hold the sport in affection.
This twentysomething has participated in hundreds of national and international tournaments.
"A lot of people ask me if I still get nervous before stepping onto the ice, and the truth is that I do. I feel very nervous. For example, tonight, in my first jump, I was a little nervous, I did a quadruple Salchow and once I jumped that first hurdle, I started to enjoy myself and feel more relaxed," he said after the semi-finals.
In 2013, Carrillo and his family moved to León, a city in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. At that time, he started participating in global tournaments, including the Junior Grand Prix.
"I have had the opportunity to compete in Germany, the Czech Republic, the United States, Canada, Japan, and many other countries, and, honestly, I think it is amazing to be able to learn from other cultures and skaters. I think that has helped me a lot to enrich my skills."
Visualization to manifestation
In 2010, the Winter Olympics took place in the Canadian city of Vancouver. The budding figure skater who had been honing his skills for a mere two years at that point, found himself glued to the TV screen back in Mexico.
"At that very moment, my dreams and hopes of one day participating in the Olympics were born, and what started out as a vision, later on became an actual goal—one I've been working toward with the unrelenting support and guidance of my coach," Carrillo said.
As the years and competitions rolled on, Carrillo obtained victory upon victory in international
tournaments and in 2017, during the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Taipei, Taiwan, China, he decided to visit Beijing and get acquainted with the city that would be hosting the next Winter Olympics.
"I went there to visualize things for myself, to see me get qualified and participate in the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. I got the chance to find out a little bit more about Chinese culture, the food and the traditions, and I was utterly fascinated," the young skater added.
And it seems that his 2017 visualization eventually led to manifestation. During the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, Carrillo qualified among the first 24, giving him the chance to try his "luck" in Beijing in February 2022.
The sportsman knows that the competition will be very young, but that doesn't faze him in the least.
"I think that every skater gets to experience their own moment in time; to start out very young is not a guarantee that you will get very far. I am currently in my athletic prime and I want to make the most of it."
Carrillo understands all too well how the world is still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, and realizes that going to Beijing as an Olympic participant at this time does not come with any touristic perks.
"I would love to visit the Great Wall and some other famous Beijing landmarks, but we have certain protocols to adhere to. But I do know that, even if this time around I won't be able to visit many places, the future will hold more opportunities for me to enjoy a spot of Chinese culture."
November 17 saw many a Carrillo fan venture out to the Interlomas ice rink, not just to come to see his famous moves, but to serenade him with Las Mañanitas (Little Mornings or Early Morning), a traditional Mexican birthday song. The young man knows he has become a role model for many teenagers and his message to them is both simple and positive:
"Pursue your dreams; no matter the hardships you may face along the way, work hard and never give up."
(Print Edition Title: Scorching the Ice)
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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