Ice skating's double champ
Less than two years ago Michael Durham swapped his running shoes and basketball for ice skates.
Now the 14-year-old is carving up the ice taking out the national intermediate figure skating champion titles in both New Zealand and Australia.
His win at the Australian Figure Skating Championships was a surprise for Durham despite going into the competition with the New Zealand title under his belt.
At the championships skaters are judged on skill, balance and technique as they perform their manoeuvres on the ice.
The Hillsborough resident has stormed his way up through three categories in less than 12 months to compete at intermediate level.
"I've just come through the ranks really fast and haven't really had a chance to take it all in yet."
The sport seems an unusual choice for the former Auckland under-15s basketballer to pick but Durham was hooked from the moment he stepped on to the ice.
"I liked watching it because of its fluid motions and it looks cool with the spinning jumps.
"It's a lot harder than it looks but I wasn't scared - I just did things over and over and over until I got it."
Durham's dedication and natural sports talent has seen him represent New Zealand in athletics and take up waterpolo, football and the Japanese martial art of aikido.
Some of his friends support him with figure skating but it's not something the Lynfield College student talks about with them very much, he says.
It takes a lot of dedication to take to the ice before dawn six days a week.
"You need to train really hard every day for as long as you can and as hard as you can to get anywhere," he says.
"I really like it so I don't mind the sacrifices."
Durham's coach Rosie Armstrong has not seen a skater progress so quickly in her 19 years as a coach.
"It's pretty exciting from a coach's point of view. I would really like to help him get ready for the higher international level now."
Figure skating has rapidly grown in popularity over the past few years thanks to improved ice skating rinks and more leading coaches coming to New Zealand.
A greater appreciation of the high skill level required is also helping to produce more male skaters, Armstrong says.
"You've got to be pretty tough and gritty. It's all about technical ability, athleticism and strength."
Durham hopes to compete at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships and one day make the leap to Canada to skate professionally.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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