BEIJING (AP), -- They suggested he play soccer. They claimed figure skating was only for girls. They claimed that winter sports were not appropriate in Guadalajara.
Donovan Carrillo from Mexico, the rare Latin American figure skater at the Winter Games was not discouraged by any of these naysayers. He has since become a rare success story at the Beijing Olympics - though relative - from that region of the world.
Carrillo performed a career-best performance at the Winter Games marquee sport on Tuesday at Capital Indoor Stadium. It featured a well-executed quad loop and a difficult triple axel.
This allows him to progress to Thursday's longer free skate competition -- a first in Mexico, which hasn't had an Olympic-level skater for three decades. Carrillo became the most successful Mexican figure-skating champion in history.
Carrillo stated, "For me to be one the few Latin American athletes at the Olympics is really something that motivates and inspires me to do better in winter sports." I used to share my dream with others. They would always laugh at me or tell me it was impossible for a Mexican person to qualify.
Carrillo is one 33-year-old Latin athlete from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia. He also represents Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru. Another 10 athletes are from four Caribbean countries, including the Virgin Islands, Haiti and Jamaica. None of them have ever won a medal at the Winter Games.
Brazil, a Summer Games powerhouse, claims the most athletes. However the 10 Winter competitors in Beijing represent a fraction their 302 who competed at the Tokyo Games last season.
Carrillo, one of the four Mexican athletes, is the only one to have stayed in Mexico to develop his talents. He insists that he will do so. Two other athletes are Mexican-American but train in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Sarah Schleper joined the Mexico team after she married a Mexican skier and retired from the U.S. team.
Carrillo's stronger-than-expected figure skating short program on Tuesday was steeped in national pride. Santana was his favorite band and Carrillo's music was the soundtrack. Carrillo's blade covers featured the Mexican flag's green, white, and red colors. The custom-made costume, which was black and gold in shine, was given to him by Edgar Lozzano (Mexican fashion designer).
Carrillo stated, "It's something I always try to do in my performance, to include the Mexican culture." "Carlos Santana, Mexican. "I always try to take on other artists that could help and motivate me to represent our country." The 22-year old is originally from Guadalajara, but moved to Leon with his coach when he was 13, after his local rink closed down. He dreamed of Olympic glory, idolizing Javier Fernandez from Spain who won bronze at the 2018 Winter Games Pyeongchang. This was to be the first Spanish figure skating medalist.
Brenda Elsey is a Hofstra University sports history professor who said that Carrillo's Olympic debut can only be good for Mexico and Latin America in terms if winter sports engagement. Mexico doesn't have a national sports league or competitive collegiate system that covers winter sports. It does not consider the Winter Games a priority geopolitically.
"They would need to compete on the European circuit in order to qualify. Elsey stated that the process of qualifying for the Olympics is more difficult than people think, especially since there isn't a large Latin American culture that would be eager to do so.
Elsey stated that even at popular resorts in Chile or Argentina, mountain snow sports are so expensive that they are effectively reserved for tourists from Europe and those with European roots who are already skilled in skiing.
The International Olympic Committee is aware of the lack of Latin American participation at the Winter Games. Elsey stated that winter sports are deeply rooted in Nordic traditions. This is why Africa, Middle East, and Southeast Asia aren't well represented.
Elsey stated that they would love to expand their market to raise money for marketing and broadcast rights. "The IOC wants everyone to be relevant."
Carrillo may need to skate again on televised television in order to break through the soccer-crazed Mexico media coverage. However, national newspapers were flooded with photos of Carrillo smiling on Tuesday.
Mexicans rallied behind the young figure skater quickly, sharing their support via social media.
Anette Tapia, who made his debut hours after it was announced, admitted that she had not been following the Olympics but had read about Carrillo before.
The 26-year old designer said that he has a refreshing spirit. He is motivated.
Mexico is not known for figure skating and has no rinks of the same size as in other countries. Ice rinks are often limited to shopping malls.
It was actually on the Plaza Mayor mall in central Guanajuato, where Carrillo had been training in the lead-up to the Olympics. To afford this expensive sport, he also taught ice skating lessons at the Plaza Mayor mall in Guanajuato.
Carrillo laments the fact that he is often redirected to reality when he trains: when people ask him to put down his loud music. When he's trying to perfect his moves while avoiding kids and families, and when he shares half of the rink with other hockey players.
"The dream of all coaches in Mexico is to have right infrastructure so that the skaters can train in Mexico ...(so (so) they don't need to travel out to improve," stated Gregorio Nunez who has been Carrillo's coach for 14 years. It's difficult to get the infrastructure needed to practice winter sports in our country.
Carrillo stated that there is also a cultural barrier, since macho attitudes are hostile to male skaters.
"Sometimes people believe that artistic sports are for women only. That's why I had to fight that belief as a child. Many people told me that I was a girl and that if you practice an artistic sport it will affect your sexual preferences. Carrillo stated that he never believed such a thing. "I believe that's one reason why we don't see many male skaters here in my country."
Carrillo is proud of making history as he takes to the ice for Mexico in Thursday's men's finals. However, he doesn't believe he can compete with Nathan Chen, a powerhouse from the U.S.
This isn't stopping the Mexican skater from continuing his career. He already has his sights set on another run in Milan Cortina 2026 and Beijing is a great place to learn for his future goals. He is aware that the very fact of his existence on the Olympic rink in Beijing is a great achievement for his country.
Carrillo, who was beaming with joy, said that he had a great time on ice. It was too much. I wanted to continue skating and live the Olympic dream."