For local figure skater Callum Bradshaw, facing competitors on the rink is not half as bad as the battles he has to face when he steps off it.
Competing in a female-dominated sport in Australia, people would often question or poke fun at the teenager, who chooses to spend his spare time on the ice rink practising graceful pirouettes and 360 jumps while wearing tights.
But after recently returning from Slovenia where he represented his country at his first ISU Junior Grand Prix, all the odd glances and remarks he received seem worth it.
“When I was younger, certain people would laugh about my decision to become a figure skater but all my friends have been supportive of me,” Bradshaw said. “There are not many male figure skaters in Canberra, which is something that I would like to help address.
“I would love to get more boys to get involved in the sport and to get rid of the stigma that it is a feminine sport. It can be a manly sport but you have to embrace your feminine side when you are presenting.”
The former Adelaide boy grew up playing several sports before he decided on figure skating. The decision to choose which sport to pursue was a simple one – what do I enjoy more?
The 19-year-old, a self-professed late bloomer, has been on the ice since he was three-years-old but only started being competitive when he was 12 and only seriously competitive when he moved to Cooma.
“My mum was always a big fan of the sport, even before I was born, so I guess she wanted her kids to grow up skating,” he said. “19 years later I am here, and I love the sport which has given me so much and taught me a lot of life lessons.”
Bradshaw moved to Cooma when he was in high school so he could be coached by Miriam Manzano-Hammond – a seven-time national champion and renowned international competitor. With the closest rink in Canberra being the Phillip Ice Centre, his years in Cooma saw him make the hour-and-a-half trek to Canberra to continue the sport he loves. But the commitment came easily for him.
“I have been with Miriam for six years now, and every year we have developed together,” he said. “At the beginning, we weren’t skating that often because we had to travel so far but in the last three years I have been really knuckling down and training three to five times a week.”
He has already established himself as ACT’s best and after representing Australia at ISU Junior Grand Prix, he now wants to make the leap into adult competing. While the Grand Prix was a steep learning curve for the youngster, and while he walked away not having performed his best, it is just another step in his journey to becoming the best figure skater he can be.
“It was my first time competing overseas and it was amazing to compete in a different environment against these fantastic athletes around the world,” he said. “My performances were not what I was looking for but it is another experience going forward. I am now extra motivated for nationals which are a little over a month away and I am looking ahead to competing again.”