Harley Windsor and his partner Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya have created history overnight in Tallinn, Estonia by becoming the first Australian figure skaters to win a gold medal at an ISU Junior Grand Prix.
Coming from a surprise third after the short program and with well-credentialed Russians teams ahead and behind the Sydney-based pair, Harley and Katia skated first in the final group, laying down an incredible free program, packed with difficulty and power that broke the 100 point barrier and which piled on the pressure for the leading teams to match.
The Australian team scored a total 159.26, leaving three strong Russian teams Alina Ustimkina and Nikita Volodin (156.95), Ekaterina Borisova and Dmitry Sopot (150. 25) and Amina Atakhanova and Ilia Spiridonov (147.80) in their wake. (YouTube link below)
Harley (19), who has Aboriginal heritage on both sides of his family, felt calm and confident as he and Katia began the free program that has taken the skating world by surprise.
“I was thinking, “what have I got to lose – if I go out with confidence, what’s the worst that could happen?”
“We trained every single day, without a rest after the JGP in Ostrava. Day in, day out, not missing anything,” he explained.
Katia, a 16-year-old teenager from Moscow who will seek to become Australian, and her Aussie partner are probably the world’s most unlikely pairs figure skating team. In a mere ten months the teenagers have developed a bond, partnership and desire to succeed that has been matched by results in their first season.
Their gold medal winning free program had it all. A soaring triple twist, effortless yet complicated and smooth lifts, throw triples and a perfect side-by-side triple jump combination. The power and confident unison displayed by the newcomers was awe inspiring.
“After our initial Grand Prix in the Czech Republic last month, we knew what our ability was. We just had to believe in ourselves and take it one element at a time,” Harley and Katia said from Tallinn this morning.
The speed of their success has Harley somewhat in disbelief.
“I’m still a little bit in shock and it hasn’t really set in yet. I’m absolutely ecstatic. It’s hard to describe what it’s like watching your nation’s flag go up first in the medal presentations.”
As a proud indigenous Australian from the western suburbs in Sydney, Harley fully understands the importance of his achievement.
“I’m honoured that I have been able to be so successful in such a short amount of time,” he said. “I hope to inspire young athletes’ to strive for their dreams and that anything is possible. I hope that I set a good example that if you work hard, respect and trust your coaches – results will come.”
Harley and Katia look and skate as if they are meant to be, yet the hard work, combined with the vision and support by their Sydney coaches Andrei and Galina Pachin is the real reason for Australia’s latest winter sport stars.
The unlikely pairing of Harley Windsor and Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya was the brainwave of Galina and Andrei Pachin late last year in a desperate bid to keep their talented young student in the sport he loves.
“I began to teach Harley at the end of 2006. He was very thin and small in stature and with great desire to learn and hard-working attitude,” said Galina Pachin, who has watched from home as husband Andrei travels with their team.
“He was like plasticine with very good coordination. At the age of 15 until 17 we had problems with rapid growth. Harley struggled with skating and a few times he wanted to quit, but my husband and I tried to convince him that this is temporary and he should continue training by working hard on his strength and skating ability.”
“We believed that he could be a good pair skater. The biggest problem was to find the right girl for pairs who was small in height, slim and brave.”
After a few failed partnerships at home, the coaches looked to Russia to find Harley a partner and finally an unexpected call came from legendary Olympic Gold Medal winning coach Nina Mozer, who had a student she thought would be suitable.
Andrei Pachin took his student to Moscow. It was a desperate move by motivated coaches at their own expense to keep Harley in the sport.
Nina Mozer saw the possibilities and was instrumental in securing a release for Katia from the Russian Federation after Australia’s formal request. It was a generous gesture by a respected coach who cares about the sport and her students.
For 16 year-old Katia, the opportunity was totally unexpected because she too, thought there would not be a partner for her after two failed previous attempts.
“Nina Mozer spoke with my mother and we met with the coach from Australia Andrei Pachin. Harley arrived within a short period of time. I liked him straight away- tall, slim and strong. Always with a positive attitude, kind and respectful,” Katia remembered.
“Most importantly for me in a partner was that he was caring towards a partner. We tried it out and managed well. It was a good fit.”
Within the month Katia flew to Sydney on her first visa to continue training.
“When I arrived in Australia I fell in love with it at once and forever more. I loved everything – the climate, nature and the people and most importantly the great training conditions at Canterbury Ice Rink.”
“Everyone that I came into contact with welcomed, accepted and supported me. More than anyone, Galina and Andrei welcomed me into their home and life with open arms. Thanks to them and the manager of Canterbury Ice Rink who helped make it possible for us to train, we have had this unique opportunity to develop our skating partnership.”
“Harley and I want to achieve high results in this sport, attaining the highest level of success in pair skating.”
As for their coaches, the knowledge that the hard road ahead may now just be a little bit easier has strengthened their belief in the Aboriginal kid from Rooty Hill and his Russian-born partner.
“For the future, we have our fingers crossed,” Galina said.
By Belinda Noonan
Harley Windsor’s indigenous background: 19-year-old Harley’s heritage spans across NSW. His mother Josie is from the Weilwyn and Gamilaraay people, whilst father Peter is from Moree of the Gamilaraay and Ngarrable people. His great grandparents were both full blood Aboriginal people, neither of whom ever spoke English.
Watch their amazing performance on YouTube