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A Mexican figure skater achieves an Olympic first

Donovan Carrillo, whose family is from Guadalajara, is the first Mexican to advance to the Olympic free skate final event. For him, "it's a dream come true."
Donovan Carrillo
Mexico's Donovan Carrillo competes in the men's single skating short program of the figure skating event during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Tuesday.Wang Zhao / AFP via Getty Images

Figure skater Donovan Carrillo has always stood out practicing among young girls at home in Guanajuato, but he achieved his “dream come true” on Tuesday when he became the first Mexican to advance to the Olympic free skate final event.

Training to become a world-class figure skater as a boy — or a man — has never been easy in Mexico, “where soccer is popular”, said the 22-year-old, adding he is coached alongside teenaged girls.

But Carrillo, who bore the flag at the opening ceremony, wore Mexico proudly at the Capital Indoor Stadium, skating in a Mexican-designed black-and-gold-sparkled costume to music that included compatriot Carlos Santana’s number Black Magic Woman.

Carrillo is the first Mexican male figure skating Olympian since 1992 Albertville, when Riccardo Olavarrieta dropped out after the short program.

“I always wanted to be at the Olympics. I used to talk about this dream with people,” an ecstatic Carrillo told reporters after a mostly flawless program. “They were always laughing or telling me that it was impossible for a Mexican to qualify.”

Beaming after completing a short program that earned him a personal best score of 79.69, Carrillo held up his skater guards in the colours of the Mexican flag to the camera before he got into the kiss and cry.

“I had a great time on the ice,” he said.

“Besides doing my best short program during the season, I think my favorite part of this whole experience was the performance during the competition. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to keep skating and living the Olympic dream.

“For me to be qualified for the free skating, it’s like a dream come true.”

Carrillo, who left his family in Guadalajara aged 13 to live with his coach Gregorio Nunez because the rink at home closed, said his inspiration as a child was Spanish world champion and Olympic bronze medalist Javier Fernandez.

“He was such a great role model for me. Like in Spain, soccer is very popular in Mexico.

“So the winter sports are not that common. And with that obstacle, I think he did great for Spain and he’s a role model for me to hopefully one day be as good as he was when he was active in skating.”

Carrillo will compete in the free skate on Thursday.

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