Donovan Carrillo: "We can achieve even greater things at Milano Cortina 2026"

Mexican figure skater Carrillo is already looking forward to the next Olympic Winter Games after his historic exploits at Beijing 2022.

By Ken Browne
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Donovan Carrillo insists his performance at Beijing 2022 is just the beginning.

After arriving back in Mexico City from China, the 22-year-old figure skater is already setting his sights on the next Winter Olympic Games at Milano Cortina 2026.

"We achieved important things in Beijing," he told the reporters at the airport arrival gate, "and I'm sure with the four years' preparation we now have before Milan (Milano-Cortina 2026) we can achieve even greater things."

It was a hero's welcome on his return to Mexico after the figure skater wowed the world at Beijing 2022, and for him a brand new journey is only just beginning.

At the airport fans held photos and signs reading "Welcome home Donovan, we're proud of you," and "thanks for making Mexico proud."

"It's a dream come true," Carrillo said.

"It's proof that when you put your all into something and dedicate yourself to your goals, you can reach them."

On 24 February Carrillo posted to his nearly half a million followers on Instagram that:

"If I could say anything to an eight-year-old Donovan, I would tell him that it won't be easy but it's definitely worth it.

"I'm still surprised by all the love and support that you have shown me after my participation in the Olympic Winter Games. I have such happy memories of my participation and I feel huge gratitude for all the people who put in their grain of sand and helped me achieve this."

Carrillo went viral at Beijing 2022 for his incredible skating and by becoming the first Mexican skater to make it to the free skate after he finished 19th in the short program.

He finished 22nd overall after the free in a stacked field among some of the greatest skaters in history like eventual gold medallist Nathan Chen and Japanese megastar Hanyu Yuzuru.

Carrillo's story makes his feat all the more impressive given that he trains on a public ice rink in a shopping centre at home, often with 40 or 50 other people skating around him.

He raised the bar in Beijing with a stunning short program, successfully landing a quadruple toe loop, a triple Axel and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination in a program set to ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Shake It’ by Mexican-born legendary musician Santana.

Videos of Carrillo skating had millions of views online during the Games, and his reaction to his short program score was one of the more memorable moments of Beijing 2022 (Check out the photo below).

Donovan Carrillo reacts to his short program score at Beijing 2022. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

The 22-year-old had already caused a stir by becoming the first figure skater from his nation to make the Olympic Winter Games in 30 years, and became the first to qualify for the free program in Beijing.

Mexico had only ever qualified four skaters to the Olympics, most recently to the 1992 Games in Albertville, France, where both Riccardo Olavarrieta and Mayda Navarro failed to advance to the free skate.

Donovan Carrillo: Breaking down barriers and stereotypes all the way to Milano Cortina 2026

The whirlwind tour continued at home and CNN's Spanish channel caught up with him while visiting a school and signing autographs, posing for photos at another public event as people queued around the corner to see him.

"Like everything in life, there were emotional highs and lows, but what I take away from Beijing is all the satisfaction of living a dream after all the effort over 14 years," he told CNN.

"And I also have to thank my coach for making this possible and my family for always believing in me.

"It's a privilege to be able to put in my grain of sand to help inspire the dreams of young people.

"In the past I've also been there, admiring other Mexican athletes who have managed to break down barriers and push through stereotypes, and it's a privilege to be on the other side of that."

Donovan Carrillo: Figure skating "crazy dream"

"Many people told me during the beginning of my career that this was a crazy dream,” Carrillo said in Beijing.

“People were always laughing or telling me it wasn't possible for a Mexican to qualify."

His mother has said that at times they couldn't afford the ice time for him to practise.

"For us, the most difficult thing was our finance," Carrillo's mother, Diana explains.

"We had to consider the option of withdrawing the kids from skating for a month because, as I told Goyo [Gregorio Núñez, Donovan's coach], we couldn't afford the ice skating lessons."

"It's challenging, I'm not lying," continues Donovan.

"But instead of regretting and thinking of what I don't have, I always try to work with what I have, that's key for me being here. It's better to focus on what you have and try to get the best out of it and live the dream."

Donovan Carillo's inspiration

Carrillo took inspiration from various athletes on his way to where he is now.

“Before figure skating, I was in gymnastics and diving, and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of Olympic athletes and train with them when I was a kid like [Olympic divers] Ivan Garcia, German Sanchez and Jahir Ocampo,” he told Olympics.com.

“They were always super nice with me and they taught me a lot.”

In Beijing he told Olympics.com that he'd like to try diving with Mexico's Rommel Pacheco:

It would be amazing to start to dive with Rommel,” said the figure skating sensation. “I think he would do great at figure skating, too.”

New beginnings for Carrillo, with all roads pointing towards Milano-Cortina in 2026.

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