Skater's icy resolve to compete

New Zealand senior women's figure skating champion Sarah MacGibbon (18) winds down after practice this week. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
New Zealand senior women's figure skating champion Sarah MacGibbon (18) winds down after practice this week. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
There is no easy road to the Winter Olympics for Dunedin's champion figure skater Sarah MacGibbon.

The New Zealand senior women's champion is hoping to become New Zealand's first Olympic figure skater, at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, but is desperately short of sponsorship.

The 18-year-old is determined enough in her goal to travel alone to countries such as Mexico, Switzerland, Finland and Slovenia to compete against the best.

That is in stark contrast to most of her competitors who arrive with their coaches and managers. Some even have access to physios and sports psychologists.

Her perseverance paid off earlier this month when she placed third in the Hollins Trophy in Sydney.

She has been skating since she was 7, competing internationally for five years and at a senior level for one year.

''I really want to go to skate in Japan or Russia ... you need that kind of experience.''

The challenge for her continues at home where she struggles to get enough ice time at the Dunedin Ice Stadium and must spend more than $100 a week to train.

''This is one of the best rinks in the world to skate on but I don't get it for free or anything ... When I was in Finland training it was a lot cheaper.''

She is coached by former Russian figure skater Fanis Shakirzianav and practises five hours a day, six days a week - coming in at 6.30am most mornings.

In the afternoon, she shares the ice with all the other members of the public who come along, which has obvious limitations. She is unable to practise some spinning moves because it leaves holes in the ice.

All up, it costs her and her parents $25,000 a year to train and compete internationally, with her only sponsorship being a complementary gym membership from ABSolute Health and Fitness in South Dunedin.

She was coaching 10 juniors to help raise funds and grow the number of people using the ice but that has dwindled to two because of the costs.

Her next goal is to get to the summer camp of excellence in Los Angeles. She is the only New Zealander to be invited but she needs another $2500 to get there.

''I really love it, otherwise I would have given up a long time ago. You want to keep going if you think there is improvement to be made.''

MacGibbon is appealing for a major sponsor and anyone else who wants to support her cause.

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