Ice skat­ing’s dou­ble champ

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

Less than two years ago Michael Durham swapped his run­ning shoes and bas­ket­ball for ice skates.

Now the 14-year-old is carv­ing up the ice tak­ing out the na­tional in­ter­me­di­ate fig­ure skat­ing cham­pion ti­tles in both New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

His win at the Aus­tralian Fig­ure Skat­ing Cham­pi­onships was a sur­prise for Durham de­spite go­ing into the com­pe­ti­tion with the New Zealand ti­tle un­der his belt.

At the cham­pi­onships skaters are judged on skill, bal­ance and tech­nique as they per­form their ma­noeu­vres on the ice.

The Hills­bor­ough res­i­dent has stormed his way up through three cat­e­gories in less than 12 months to com­pete at in­ter­me­di­ate level.

‘‘I’ve just come through the ranks really fast and haven’t really had a chance to take it all in yet.’’

The sport seems an un­usual choice for the former Auck­land un­der-15s bas­ket­baller to pick but Durham was hooked from the moment he stepped on to the ice.

‘‘I

liked

watch­ing

it be­cause of its fluid mo­tions and it looks cool with the spin­ning jumps.

‘‘It’s a lot harder than it looks but I wasn’t scared – I just did things over and over and over un­til I got it.’’

Durham’s ded­i­ca­tion and nat­u­ral sports tal­ent has seen him rep­re­sent New Zealand in ath­let­ics and take up water­polo, foot­ball and the Ja­panese mar­tial art of aikido.

Some of his friends sup­port him with fig­ure skat­ing but it’s not some­thing the Lyn­field Col­lege stu­dent talks about with them very much, he says.

It takes a lot of ded­i­ca­tion to take to the ice be­fore dawn six days a week.

‘‘You need to train really hard ev­ery day for as long as you can and as hard as you can to get any­where,’’ he says.

‘‘I really like it so I don’t mind the sac­ri­fices.’’

Durham’s coach Rosie Arm­strong has not seen a skater progress so quickly in her 19 years as a coach.

‘‘It’s pretty ex­cit­ing from a coach’s point of view. I would really like to help him get ready for the higher in­ter­na­tional level now.’’

Fig­ure skat­ing has rapidly grown in pop­u­lar­ity over the past few years thanks to im­proved ice skat­ing rinks and more lead­ing coaches coming to New Zealand.

A greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the high skill level re­quired is also help­ing to pro­duce more male skaters, Arm­strong says.

‘‘You’ve got to be pretty tough and gritty. It’s all about tech­ni­cal abil­ity, ath­leti­cism and strength.’’

Durham hopes to com­pete at the Four Con­ti­nents Fig­ure Skat­ing Cham­pi­onships and one day make the leap to Canada to skate pro­fes­sion­ally.

Photo: JESS LEE

Dou­ble cham­pion: Fig­ure skater Michael Durham has taken the ti­tle of in­ter­me­di­ate fig­ure skat­ing cham­pion in both New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

Go to cen­tral­leader.co.nz and click on Lat­est Edi­tion to watch Michael Durham skat­ing at the 2012 New Zealand Ice Fig­ure Skat­ing Cham­pi­onships.

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