Australia names its first indigenous Winter Olympian

Getty Images
0 Comments

SYDNEY (AP) — Figure skater Harley Windsor is set to be the first indigenous Australian to compete in the Winter Olympics after being selected for PyeongChang, just a little over a decade after he stumbled into a sport he knew nothing about.

Windsor and Russian-born teenager Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya, the junior world pairs champions, secured an Olympic spot with a bronze medal in a qualifying competition in Germany in late September and were among the first four athletes to be confirmed in the Australian team on Thursday.

Brendan Kerry and Kailani Craine were selected to compete in the individual figure skating events in PyeongChang.

The 21-year-old Windsor, from western Sydney, said his selection “feels like an amazing and mind-blowing accomplishment.”

“I grew up in the Aboriginal community and have always been around Aboriginal culture,” he said, “so it’s been a huge part of my life and something that I’m very proud of.”

There have been 51 indigenous Australian Summer Olympians, including Cathy Freeman, who ignited the Olympic cauldron at the 2000 Sydney Opening Ceremony and won 400m gold the following week.

“She was such … a great inspiration for me when I was young,” Windsor said. “I hope I can give other young indigenous athletes some inspiration that they are able to get to the highest level in winter Olympic sports just like we’ve done in summer sports.”

Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Matt Carroll said Windsor’s selection was historic for the Olympic movement in Australia.

“Just as Harley has stated he wants to, we hope that he provides inspiration to young indigenous athletes that they can follow in his path and compete at a high level in winter sports,” Carroll said.

Windsor fell into figure skating by accident at age 8 when his mother took a wrong turn while looking for a fast-food restaurant and mistakenly drove into the car park of a small ice rink.

Windsor asked his mother if he could take a look inside and, after persuading her to let him strap on a pair of skates, he slid onto the ice and was instantly hooked.

“I just really liked it so I asked if could come back the next week, then the next week, then the week after that,” Windsor told The Associated Press. “I didn’t think it would go anywhere but when I started to get serious, I actually started to enjoy the sport even more.

“It was hard work but because I had started to fall in love with the sport and I started improving really quickly, in some ways it wasn’t difficult because I just enjoyed it so much.”

Windsor almost quit the sport in frustration two years ago because he was unable to find the right partner in Australia, but his Russian coach suggested he go to Moscow to find a perfect match.

It was there that he was introduced to Alexandrovskaya, a classically trained pairs specialist who also was struggling to find the right partner and toying with the idea of quitting.

The pair quickly forged a good working relationship and although they train mostly in Moscow, Alexandrovskaya agreed to give up her dream of competing for Russia and applied for Australian citizenship. The 17-year-old Alexandrovskaya was granted citizenship last month.

“To be honest, at first I didn’t know it was going to go so well but the more we skated together the more we started to figure each other out,” Windsor said. “I think it works well for us because she’s a bit more fiery on the ice and I’m a bit more calm so it kind of balances out.

“We have our fights and stuff, obviously, but we mix really well and train very well and we’re both strong competitors.”

Craine will also make her Olympic debut in PyeongChang after winning a berth in the women’s individual competition. The 19-year-old Craine, who has more than 120,000 Instagram followers, has been dreaming about the Olympics since she was eight.

She went to the Olympic ice rink in PyeongChang earlier this week but said she refused to have her picture taken with the Olympic rings until she had formally secured a place on the team.

“And now I have,” she said. “It seems so surreal. It’s all I’ve ever wanted my whole life and now it’s crazy to think it’s happening.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S. Olympic figure skating picture at Grand Prix midpoint

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
Getty
0 Comments

At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
Getty
0 Comments

A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!