Lausanne, Switzerland


Donovan Carrillo (MEX) WJFSC 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 929263038

Donovan Carrillo (MEX) at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Mexico for sure is not a figure skating hotspot. However, there is a young skater from Mexico, who quickly becomes a crowd favorite wherever he shows up. Most recently at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Anaheim (USA), Donovan Carrillo once more was very popular with the fans and someone even threw him giant sombrero on the ice.

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The Mexican was training in diving and gymnastics at first, but then he fell in love with figure skating when he saw his older sister skating. “My sister was good at figure skating at the beginning. At that moment, I was in diving and gymnastics. After my classes, I used to go to the rink and watch my sister – all the movements, the jumps and spins and choreography that she and her friends were doing. So I started to practice these jumps off-ice. I would put on some music then I get inspired to try to do a choreography my own way,” Donovan recalled. He was eight years old at the time. Additionally, he was lured into skating by a girl. “She was skating and was one of the coaches’ daughters. I met her and then I asked my parents for lessons because I want to talk with her. Then they said: ‘Okay! Your sister’s coach sees some aptitude in you and she thinks that you could be a good figure skater. So if you want to try, it’s good and if you don’t like it, it doesn’t matter – you are in diving and gymnastics.’ And then I tried it and I felt like I was a fish in the water. I felt free and like I found the place where I belonged.”

Donovan Carrillo (MEX) JGPFS 2016©International Skating Union (ISU) 601891670

Donovan Carrillo (MEX) at the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Championships 2016©International Skating Union (ISU)

Donovan started out in 2008, just for fun at first, a year later he did his first competitions. In 2010 he watched the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver on TV and felt really inspired. “I was really motivated because of this and I said: ‘This is a dream and one day I want to be there at the Olympics.’ Now, it’s a goal and I’m working to accomplish this goal that I have had since I was 10 years old.” He soon quit diving and gymnastics to focus fully on skating.

Donovan’s sister switched to roller skating later and the coach’s daughter that Donovan liked also stopped, but he stayed in figure skating. He was already hooked. Performing on the ice to music is what he loves and you can see that. “Since I was little I loved to be a part of the shows at school or every performance – I have to do it. I always do it with love. That’s one of the things that attracts me to this sport – the choreography.” This is what the audience feels and sees – the visible joy of skating the now 19-year-old skater brings across when he is on the ice. “I really enjoy that moment when the audience is with the ice and you and they are trying to feel what you are feeling when you are on the ice. That’s my goal: I want the audience to feel what I feel when I am skating,” Carrillo pointed out.

Donovan Carrillo (MEX) WJFSC 2017©International Skating Union (ISU) 653431572

Donovan Carrillo (MEX) at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2017©International Skating Union (ISU)

The Mexican skater turned some heads on the Junior Grand Prix already and he is making progress, step by step. Last year, he competed at the World Championships and made the Final, finishing 22nd. At the Four Continents Championships in Anaheim he landed his first triple Axel in competition in the Short Program. However, there are also setbacks. In the summer, Donovan sprained his right ankle and was unable to compete much. He went to the Junior Grand Prix in Bratislava in August, but after re-injuring his ankle, he took some rest to heal and recover. “I competed at Nationals and I was better. From Nationals to here I am full time skating. So now it’s perfect,” he shared.

The conditions Donovan has to train in are less than perfect, though. “I had to adapt my training to the conditions that I have because we have to skate on public sessions. That’s challenging,” he explained. “Sometimes there are 50, sometimes 40, sometimes 20 [people on the ice]. Sometimes I am by myself in the mornings and that is good, but sometimes some schools come to skate in the rink so it’s hard to train. We have to train with public session music so I have to do my programs to [different] music. So it’s hard but I try just to think about what I have and not give this stuff place in my mind. I just have to focus on what I have to do and I think that’s part of the training because when you have good conditions you can be better.”

The conditions at international competitions seem like paradise to the Mexican skater, who skates now in León, Guanajuato. “I used to live in Guadalajara, but they closed the rink. It was small and it was ‘circular’ and it was really small. We couldn’t skate there and I had to move with my coach [Gregorio Nunez] and my parents stayed in Guadalajara with my sisters. It was a hard decision because I was only 13 years [old]. But my goals and my dreams were bigger than the conditions so I decided and my parents supported me with my decision.” León is three hours away from Guadalajara, but Donovan rarely finds the time to go home and visit his family. “I try to call them every day to keep contact because I miss them a lot,” he said.

Donovan Carrillo (MEX) WJFSC 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 910006762

Donovan Carrillo (MEX) at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

The 19-year-old has graduated from high school and right now focuses on skating and on teaching. “I want to study but now I am trying to give Mexican figure skaters the opportunity to learn from my coach and so I decided to start teaching. I am helping my coach with his students and I like it. It is really fun to teach them and give them that hope that some day they can be here at international competitions. I had to stop studying because it was hard - working, skating and teaching. Now I’m in a break – just skating and teaching. Hopefully, in the future, I would like to study physiotherapy because I like the recovery and everything that is involved,” he said.

Javier Fernandez (SPA) EFSC 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1090275046

Javier Fernandez (SPA) at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

In skating, Donovan looks up to seven-time European and two-time World Champion Javier Fernandez of Spain. “Since I was little Javier Fernandez was an inspiration for me because he came from a country where figure skating was not a principal sport. Soccer, like in Mexico, is really popular there. So he started to change that mind[set] and the sport started to grow up with him. He was an inspiration and I would say: “If Javi is cool and can do that maybe I can do that for my country.” So far, the Mexican has not yet met his idol in person, but has exchanged messages with him on social media. He would love to take part one day in a seminar with Fernandez teaching.

In spite of the tough conditions, Donovan is happy to train in Mexico. “Now, I try to do my best with what I have. I’m skating in Mexico and I am happy skating in Mexico. We’re open to learning from teachers that come to give us seminars and private lessons. We’re working like this and it is working so we will try to keep this moving.”