January 23: It’s almost one year since 16 year-old Australian figure skater, Cheltzie Lee skated into the hearts of the nation with a perfect performance at the Vancouver Olympics, finishing in 20th place.
Cheltzie’s Olympic performance, after only making the team in the last days, was a dream come true for the Canterbury skater and she stepped up to the Olympic pressure test.
A stronger performance followed at the 2010 World Championships, where she placed 17th and the eyes of the figure skating world were upon the young girl from Sydney. Then a recurring back injury and her final school year year required Cheltzie to step back for a few months before 1980 Olympic Champion Robin Cousins arrived in Australia last July to create two new programs for the 2011 season.
“The Olympics was awesome and I can’t wait to do it again and then working with Robin, at home, in Australia and with my coach Kylie, was unbelievable. He is a genius and I love my new programs,” said Cheltzie.
The road for the 17 year-old hasn’t been easy. Not long after her new programs were created in Sydney last July, Cheltzie suffered a freakish knee injury, which took three months to heal, kept her out of the late 2010 international season and unable to defend her national title in Melbourne in early December.
Injuries combined with preparing for the Higher School Certificate through Distance Education is bound to test any teenager’s resolve, particularly in an Olympic sport in which Australia has never medalled.
With a love of her sport tested, the NSW Institute of Sport and Olympic Winter Institute scholarship holder is back stronger than ever and ready to compete in Taipei at the Four Continents Championships in late February before heading to the World Championships in March in Tokyo.
Under the guidance of her coach, Kylie Fennell, NSW Institute of Sport physiologist, John Marsden and the careful eye of Five Dock physiotherapist, Jason Power, Cheltzie has increased her strength and is looking forward.
“I’m a lot stronger now than I was this time last year and I’m feeling pretty confident for the coming events,” says Cheltzie. “Passing my driver’s license a week ago feels pretty good too! It will make life easier for my parents, which is what I want most of all.”
Cheltzie is one of the new breed of Olympic Winter Institute athletes including newly crowned Boarder Cross World Champion, Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, Ladies Half Pipe World Champion Holly Crawford and Men’s Half Pipe Champion Nate Johnstone.
The NSW Institute of Sport now has a thriving and successful Winter Sports program, which includes Mogul skiers, Roanna Humphries, Montana O’Neill and younger sister Taylah O’Neill, all from the Meriden School in Strathfield.