Rooty Hill born Harley Windsor overcomes doubts to become Australia’s first indigenous Winter Olympic athlete
November 9, 2017
Article from The Daily Telegraph. Reported by Matt Logue.
Thousands of miles from home, away from family and friends, Harley Windsor almost gave up on his ice skating dream.
Luckily he was pulled back from the brink and the Sydneysider has now created history as Australia’s first indigenous athlete to compete at the Winter Olympics.
Windsor is heading to the games in Pyeongchang in South Korea in February, where he will compete in pairs figure staking alongside his Russian-born partner — Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya.
Flash back to training camp in Moscow last year, though, and the boy from Rooty Hill in Sydney’s west was on the cusp of quitting the sport.
“I had my bags packed and I’d booked a flight back home,” Windsor, 21, confessed.
“I was on the phone to my coach bawling my eyes out saying, ‘I’m done — I’m not doing this anymore and it’s too much for me’.
“I was so drained from the mental side of the training. I was living on my own, while I was doing hour after hour of training.
“As someone from a big family, I found it really hard being without them.
“I was also in a foreign country and I couldn’t speak the language, so there were a lot of tears and breakdowns.”
Thankfully Windsor didn’t quit and he is headed to the Olympics after being officially named in the Australian winter team for the 2018 Pyeongchang games in Sydney on Thursday.
He credits a frank conversation with his parents, Peter and Josephine, for convincing him to stay in Moscow and chase his figure skating dream.
“My parents have been a huge support,” he said.
“I remember they told me to keep going, so I cancelled my flight home and I ended up staying.
“I guess when you have a dream and you really want it I guess you keep pushing for it.”
For Windsor, his ice skating dream started in his early teens when his mother took a wrong turn and stumbled across the Blacktown ice skating rink. Harley Windsor’s journey to the 2018 Winter Olympics almost never happened.
He tried his hand on the ice, loved it and he hasn’t stopped since.
Now Windsor will follow in the footsteps of his indigenous idol, former sprinter Cathy Freeman, and compete at an Olympics — 82 years after Australia first competed at the Winter Olympics at the 1936 Garmisch Games.
“I remember watching Cathy run at the 2000 Olympics when I was four years old,” he said.
“I briefly remember seeing her on TV and running across the line to win and that has always stuck in my mind.”
Windsor also can’t wait to team up with Alexandrovskaya — who doubles as his Pairs partner and girlfriend.
The pair met while training in Moscow and now have their sights set on Olympic success.
Although, Windsor admits being a couple on the circuit can have its challenges.
“I think being with a partner is even harder,” he said.
“I’m with her 24/7, so we’ve had some pretty big fights. It’s challenging being in a pair. People don’t realise how much emotion goes into being in a pair.
“When you both get frustrated that certain things are not working and you want to be better, it’s hard.”
Windsor and Alexandrovskaya have an impressive recent record.
They combined to win the Pairs Junior World Championship in Taipai in March, while they secured their Olympic spot with a bronze medal in qualifying in Germany in September.
Despite this success, Windsor is refusing to get carried away about the duo’s chances at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
“At the moment we are not going to win a medal,” he said.
“Our main focus is to try and skate to clean programs the best we can and hopefully we get a top 10 finish.
“That would be amazing.”