There is no denying Figure Skating is a challenging sport. More so than some sports because;
a) You actually need to have an interest in figure skating to begin with, which (let's face it) is not very likely in most countries for the young male. Even in young females, the interest can be very little to non-existent if we are talking about a non-skating country (surely I would have had no interest in skating, hadn't it been for my mum and her obssession with Katarina Witt),
b) Even if you have interest, you/your sponsor must be able to finance the training costs, which are quite high, and
c) Even if you have met the above criteria, you might still end up not taking up skating because there are no decent rinks in your city/country (like in my case).
So, I think it is safe to assume that in terms of shining skating talents, we probably have a huge pool of lost opportunities on a global scale. I guess it is no wonder we get wunderkinds like Yuzuru Hanyu or Javier Fernandez once in a blue moon.
So, back in the day when I was following the TV competition Buzda Dans (Dancing on Ice, version Turkey), I have come across Ilhan Mansiz, who, in my opinion, was a shining skating talent gone to waste. He is a retired footballer (early retirement due to knee injury) so clearly he had some advantage, being an athlete, but his progress was still remarkable. To quote Samantha from SATC, he was a perfect case of Coulda Woulda Shoulda.
When you watch his early performances from the show, there is a lot of energy and enthusiasm but not much else to set him apart from his competitors.
Then if you go on to watch his final performances in 8 weeks time (with no more than a total of 2.5 months of skating under his belt) and you can see the progress for yourself..
Final show, 1st Performance
Final show, 2nd Performance
When the rest of the show participants still had trouble with decent backward crossovers (after all, this is not Russia's Ice Age, where they must receive much more vigorous initial training), he was attempting single jumps (at his own insistence, no less) or pair twists.
When the show ended (and he won), I thought of the lost opportunities again and left it there. But he didn't. After becoming a pair with his partner off the ice too and falling in love with skating, he decided to try for Sochi in pairs. I couldn't believe it when they actually moved to USA for a better training environment.
Currently he is mastering his doubles and seems to have got his single Axel in control.
From the footage I have seen, their SBS skating or pair lifts are not too shabby either. Clearly, he is not someone who will leave it at Coulda Woulda Shoulda level, but to fight for it despite his advanced age, lack of financing or training facilities. What can I say but hats off to him!
If you wish to follow their progress, you can check out their FB page:http://www.facebook.com/OliBestandigIlhanMansiz