With our sunny climate, South Africa is not really associated with winter sports like skiing, luge, bobsleigh or ice skating. The last time a South African qualified for the Winter Olympics was as far back as 1988. It was the same year that Jamaica – also an unlikely country for winter sports – sent a bobsleigh team for the first time to winter Olympics. But now there’s a 15-year old South African hoping to represent her country at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in ice skating.

Gian Quen-Isaacs qualified for her first SA Nationals as a junior 7 years ago and became the national junior champion in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns kept her off the ice for a couple of months, but she is back in training. The teenager told BizNews of her grueling training regime that starts before sunrise every morning and what prompted her interest in ice skating. – Linda van Tilburg

Initially interested in ice hockey, a coach of a team she was trying out for told her mother that he thought Quen-Isaacs had the potential to become a figure skater and referred the teen to her current coach, Megan Allely. She says the reason why she managed to rise through the ranks and competitions of junior ice skating in the country – which led to her becoming the national junior champion in 2019 – was ‘hard work, day in and day out. I think I have the dedication and a passion for the sport. I train every day, [all] day.’

On a typical day, Gian gets up at 5am to train and does so until 7 am…

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