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Tough skater won’t give up on Sochi

22 May 2013

FIGURE SKATING: Sydneysider Cheltzie Lee skated into the hearts of Australians when she was just 16 years old. As our only figure skater at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Lee produced two huge personal best performances to finish an impressive 20th overall.

It was a remarkable result considering her place in the Team was guaranteed just 10 days before the Vancouver Opening Ceremony. As the first reserve for a position, Lee thought she would have to wait until the next Games in 2014 before a re-allocation of quota places served up her big chance.

But with less than nine months until the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the resident Olympian is no certainty for the 2014 Team. Injuries have closed in on Lee in the intervening years and the degree of difficulty for her to qualify for a second Olympics is complex.

With a permanent spinal defect from a car accident in 2007, Lee then tore her Posterior Cruciate Ligament and is now plagued by Osteitis Pubis (inflammation of the cartilage disc in the pubic bone).

Ever hunting for a silver lining, the 20-year-old still believes she has shown glimmers of form to take her to the Sochi Games even though she has only completed half an international season since 2010.

“Some of the highlights of that season were landing my first triple-triple combination in a clean short program at the World Championships and gaining a top ten result at Four Continents Championships 2011,” she said.

“A couple of lessons I learned from Vancouver were to be confident and know that I deserve to be amongst the best in the world.

“I know I can be just as good as the other athletes. I am looking forward to going over and having a crack at it.”

The latest Osteitis Pubis injury stems from the repetitive contraction of the muscles that attach to the pubic bone and is caused by constant landing on the ice.

Despite three months of swimming for rehabilitation, strength exercises and physiotherapy, the injury has not healed as planned. Lee is now undertaking plasma injections, with the hope of getting back on the ice as soon as possible.

“My aim is to be as healthy as possible throughout my sporting career,” Lee said. “I've only just turned 20 and my body has got to last me the rest of my life!”

Lee has maximised her time off the ice by finishing her Higher School Certificate and commencing a Bachelor of Inclusive/Primary Education and Disability Studies.

“I've basically just been a student and also worked on reception at the NSW Institute of Sport, also helping out in the Academic Career and Education Department there,” Lee said.

“This is my last year and then I hope to begin my Masters of Primary Education.

“Other than that, I’ve just been doing regular things like hanging out with friends, family and supporting boyfriend Sam [Hall], who is also on the path to Sochi 2014 [in moguls].”

Lee effectively has three months to return to her best form. To qualify for the Games she must win the Australian selection event at her home rink in Canterbury, Sydney from 20-22 August. She will face fortified competitors in the form of 2012 Youth Olympic representative Chantelle Kerry and US-based teenager Brooklee Han who recently finished 21st at the World Championships and 2002 Olympian Stephanie Zhang - among others.

From there the successful skater represents Australia in Germany for the Olympic Qualifying Competition from 25-28 September. Performance at this event is vital, as it is the last opportunity to secure an Olympic quota place for Australia in one of the most popular events on the Olympic Winter Program.

The Olympic Winter Games will be held in Sochi, Russia from 7-23 February 2014. Approximately 2,800 athletes will compete at Russia’s first Olympic Winter Games. The only other time the Olympics have been contested in Russia were in Moscow in 1980 (while as the Soviet Union).

To find out more about the Sochi Games and the Australian hopefuls, click here >>

Alice Wheeler

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