Born and raised in a country where snow can rarely be seen, Donovan Carrillo is the first Olympic figure skater of Mexico in 30 years.
After his debut in the Olympics, Donovan Carrillo raised his blade covers painted in the color of the Mexican national flag, and said to the camera: "To my family and all Mexicans, our dream has come true!"
Born and raised in a country where snow can rarely be seen, the 22-year-old is the first Olympic figure skater of Mexico in 30 years, and the only Mexican to make it free skating in the Olympics. Staking his short program to the remix of Black Magic Woman and Shake It, which starts slow and mysterious but changes to jaunty with a swing, Carrillo fully imbued spectators with his enthusiastic movements and smiles.
The performance earned him a personal-best score and a historic ticket to the men's free skating in Beijing. "I didn't want it to end. I wanted to keep skating and living the Olympic dream," he said.
It has been 55 years since Mexico City last saw snow. And figure skating is something people seldom talk about in a country where soccer, boxing, basketball and baseball prevail over other sports. And for Carrillo, the story with ice started from a crush on a girl.
Born in 1999 to parents who were both physical education teachers, the Mexican boy was named after Donovan Bailey, a well-known Jamaican-Canadian sprinter, and was urged to play as many sports as possible. He was training in gymnastics and diving at first. While at the age of eight, he was lured into skating by a girl, who learned figure skating with Carrillo's elder sister then.
"After my classes, I used to go to the rink and watch my sister -- all the movements, the jumps and spins and choreography that she and her friends were doing. So I started to practice these jumps off-ice. I would put on some music then I get inspired to try to do a choreography my own way," Carrillo recalled.
On Tuesday, Carrillo took to the ice as the eighth skater and pulled off nearly perfect quad toeloop and triple axel at the Capital Indoor Stadium. Performing with no hesitation, he seemed to be quite familiar with the venue. While nine days ago, when he practiced for the first time in the stadium, he spent much time to get used to the Olympic rink.
"In Mexico, we don't have any Olympic-sized rink. In Leon, the city where I live, the rink is in a mall, so we have to train with the public. And sometimes we cannot do all programs because the music for the public session is on, so it's just a little bit challenging," said Carrillo.
From having to train in a shopping mall ice rink to the Olympics!— Olympics (@Olympics) January 13, 2022
In a country with barely any Olympic size ice rinks, and against all obstacles, Donovan Carrillo will be the first figure skater from Mexico in 30 years.
Don't miss episode 5 of Winter Tracks. @DonovanDCarr pic.twitter.com/aameell8DS
"But it's not impossible," he said, adding that before he moved to Leon, the rink in his hometown Guadalajara was even smaller in the shape of a circle. When he was 13, the circular rink shut down and he had to move to Leon with his coach Gregorio Nunez.
Besides the infrastructure, raising fund for attending international competitions is also thorny. Before the Mexican government supported him in 2019, all the expenses had been covered by Carrillo's family and friends. But it was never enough and he had to take time away from training often. The cultural barrier is another challenge for Carrillo.
"Sometimes people think that the artistic sports are only for women, so that's something I had to fight when I was a kid," he said, adding that he hopes to lessen the sexual bias as well as people's doubt in winter sports in Mexico.
For the past eight years, Carrillo has skated to at least one piece of Latin music in every competition season, and the 2022 Winter Olympics was no exception. For his debut show in Beijing, Carrillo picked the music of Carlos Santana. And his costume, a black shirt adorned with over 17,000 crystals, was tailored for him by Mexican designer Edgar Lozano.
"It's something that I always try to do with my performance, to involve the Mexican culture," Carrillo said, adding that international competitions are good platforms for cultural exchange, and he hopes to bring Mexican culture to more and more people. After his short program, knowing that he has secured a slot in the final round, Carrillo could not hold back his smile. He said that a Mexican figure skater with an Olympic dream once seemed crazy to many people around him.
Despite countless obstacles, Carrillo stood on the world's top stage with his distinctive Latin programs. "I don't stay with the 'no', and I always look for the 'yes'," he said.
"I want to invite people to work hard and never give up, no matter what adversity they encounter," said the skater who has achieved his dream on ice.