Australian Team Aiming for PyeongChang
Article from International Figure Skating Magazine. Reported by Susan D. Russell.
When Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya and Harley Windsor first met at a try-out in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 4, 2015, they could not have imagined that a little more than 12 months later they would be competing against the top pairs teams in the world at the Junior Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France.
Separated by culture, language and a distance of over 14,000 km., Alexandrovskaya, who is Russian, and Windsor, an Australian, were teamed up by his coach, Andrei Pachin, through his connection with Nina Mozer. She initially suggested three potential partners for Windsor, but Alexandrovskaya was the only one to try out with him.
Windsor competed as a singles skater at domestic events in Australia, and had no previous pairs experience before he teamed up with Alexandrovskaya. He said his interest in the sport began to wane as he grew older, but his passion was reignited when he began skating as part of a pairs team.
“I feel very at home with pairs skating and it’s very exciting doing lots of different elements,” he said.
“Singles skating is very impressive with its quads, but in pairs there are twists, death spirals, throws, and lifts. It’s the variety of elements that I like.”
A little more than nine months after teaming up, Alexandrovskaya and Windsor made their international debut at the Junior Grand Prix event in Ostrava, Czech Republic, where they finished eighth.
But at their second Grand Prix assignment in Tallinn, Estonia, the skating world sat up and took notice. A clean short program had them in third place and while those ahead of them faltered in the free, the Australian team laid down a solid routine, which put them at the top of the final standings. They wrote their own little piece of history by claiming the first medal for Australia at the junior or senior level in any discipline at a Grand Prix event.
Despite winning in Estonia, the combined results from their two assignments had them as first alternates for the Final.
Luck was with the team in early December when a Russian team withdrew and Alexandrovskaya and Windsor headed to France.
They received the news as they prepared for their free skate at the national championships in Melbourne, where they claimed their first Australian title.
With less than a week to prepare, Alexandrovskaya and Windsor had contrasting reactions to skating on the biggest stage of their young career. “At Australian nationals, I was really nervous, but I sort of feel more relaxed at big competitions,” Windsor said.
No so for Alexandrovskaya. “I was a little bit nervous because it was a big competition,” she recalled.
In Marseille, they earned a personal best score of 57.08 for their short program, set to “Skyfall” by Adele, but several costly errors in the free to the “W.E.” movie soundtrack left them in a disappointing fifth place overall.
Windsor does not come from a skating background. Both of his parents are Indigenous Australians that hail from rural New South Wales, where figure skaters are few and far between. He is the youngest of seven children.
“My parents are into horse riding and driving tractors on a farm, so they have nothing to do with ice skating,” he said. “They don’t really know much about it, but they are as supportive as possible.”
Alexandrovskaya began skating at age 5. She took up pairs skating when she was 12 years old and had two partners before teaming up with Windsor. She is close to her mother, who was not thrilled when she heard that her only child would be spending so much time on the other side of the world.
“Actually, my mom didn’t really like it,” Alexandrovskaya said of her decision to represent Australia. “She misses me and I miss her.”
Though it is an ongoing challenge with respect to Windsor’s Russian visa, the duo spent a large chunk of 2016 in Moscow due to the amount of ice time available for training. They are also trying to secure Australian residency for Alexandrovskaya. This will be the first step in obtaining Australian citizenship, which will enable them to compete at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
“We have lots of lawyers, and our Olympic Committee and federation are 100 percent behind us,” Windsor said. “It’s all about getting the right people behind you to push it through.”
Alexandrovskaya and Windsor made their Four Continents debut in February, and in early March they are scheduled to compete at the World Junior Championships in Chinese Taipei. Two weeks later the duo will head to the senior World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, where they will attempt to qualify a spot for Australia at the 2018 Games.
Windsor is confident that he and Alexandrovskaya have what it takes to achieve that goal. “I would say our strongest point is that we know what we want and we know exactly what we have to do to get it.”