1998 – Shirene Human
My love story with figure skating started at the young age of 4. My father, Tom Human (who played ice hockey), had purchased a pair of hockey skates for my brother as a birthday present. I went with to the ice rink and stood patiently at the side of the ice rink, just dying to get onto the rink to skate. After a substantial amount of nagging, my father buckled and went to find a small pair of rental skates. From the moment I set foot on the ice, I just knew that this was where I was meant to be; it was “my happy place”.
My skating career began in the skating school. One of the coaches who trained me in basic skating skills was Patricia “Pat” Eastwood, who competed for South Africa in the 1960 Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, placing 25th in ladies solo figure skating. I started with private lessons just after my 5th birthday in January 1985 with Sue Winger every Tuesday. I participated in my first competition in November 1985, winning the Under 6 Novice Section at the Skyrink competition.
In May 1986, I changed coaches to Marion Scher and had four lessons a week. I changed coaches again in August 1987 to Karen Huth as my main coach and Marion “Penny” Sage as my choreographer. Marion Sage had also competed at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley and came 23rd in ladies Solo figure skating.
In 1988 I competed at my first National Championships held in Cape Town, where I placed 3rd. In 1989 I competed in the Under ten category and won the Most Artistic in the Age Groups trophy but placed 2nd in the Under ten age category. My first major win came at 11 when I won my first National title in the Under 12 age category.
My parents allowed me to travel to London in December 1991, and Claire Auret and Chris Van Rensburg to do a month of training at Queen’s ice rink.
I moved up in 1992 to the Junior National section and became the National champion at 12. I later went on to win a total of 13 National titles (Under 12, 3 Junior and 9 Senior). I was undefeated for 12 consecutive years and held the record for the most Senior national titles ever won for Senior ladies.
During my entire figure skating career, I always believed that one day I would have the opportunity to represent my country at international competitions, Junior Worlds, Senior Worlds, and the highlight of any athletes’ dreams, the Olympics. South Africa had one big problem: as a country, we were excluded from competing at all three of these events. I never let this phase me and always trained hard, believing more than anything in the world that I would one day achieve my dreams. South Africa had been excluded from these competitions due to apartheid. However, in 1990 South Africa was able to re-join the Olympic movement after the negotiations to end apartheid commenced.
I finally had the honour of competing for my country at my first Junior World Championships in December 1992 in solo ladies, in Seoul, Korea. My teammate was Paul Slabbert, who was going to compete in the men’s division.
I went on to compete in 4 Junior World Championships, six Senior World championships and seven Four continent championships, along with many other Junior and Senior international competitions for my country.
Over the years, I have had many challenges to overcome, between changing coaches, moving provinces, moving countries, and dealing with injuries, all in the effort to become the best figure skater I could be.
I trained over the years in many different countries, including Toronto, Canada 3 months on and three months off, of the year when I was 13, a month with Carlo Fassi in Milan, Italy, moved to Lake Arrowhead, California, at the age of 15 to train with Frank Carroll (who then coached Junior and Senior World Champion Michelle Kwan) as well as my final international training ground of Cleveland Ohio.
In Cleveland, I trained with Carol Heiss Jenkins, the 1956 Olympic silver medallist and the 1960 Olympic gold medal winner, and a five-time World Champion in ladies figure skating. In 1953 Carol Heiss became the first female figure skater to land a double axel. One of her trademarks was that she would perform a series of alternating clockwise and counter clockwise single Axels. Some of her former students include Timothy Goebel (I trained with him), Tonia Kwiatkowski (I trained with her), and Miki Ando.
In his own right, her Husband Hayes Jenkins won the Olympic title for men’s figure skating in 1956, four-time world champion and four-time U.S. national champion. His brother David Jenkins was the 1956 Olympic bronze medallist and the 1960 Olympic gold medallist, three-time World champion and four-time U.S. National Champion.
The two and a half years that I spent with Carol and Glynn Watts (my choreographer) formed a large part of my career as a figure skater from South Africa.
I went to senior worlds with Carol in 1997 and ended up not making the cut to qualify for the Olympics and was so disappointed; I did, however not let this get me down and later went on to do a second qualifying competition. This too ended up with a second disappointment for me as I missed qualifying by two places.
On Christmas eve 1997, I received the best Christmas gift I could ever have hoped for. I would be competing in the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. This became my most significant achievement and everything I could have ever dreamed of. I not only got to compete at Olympics, but I also got the opportunity to carry the flag in the opening ceremony.
It took me a long time to get over the fact that I had finally reached all my dreams, and it was really difficult to reset my goals after Olympics.
In August 1998, I moved back to Johannesburg and divided my time between provinces (Cape Town, Western Province) and Johannesburg. This was because I was training myself in Johannesburg and training with Barbara-Anne Hawkes in Cape Town while studying. I eventually moved to Cape Town in January 2001 and started training with Fanis Shakirzianu and Maria Shakirzianava (my choreographer). I trained in Cape Town until the end of 2004 when I moved back to Johannesburg and moved to Susan Marais. She would be my final coach during my skating career. I retired in 2005 after the Senior World Championships in Moscow.
Even though I have been out of the sport since 2005, I keep in touch with many of the coaches and stay up to date with the changes in figure skating. I am always interested in the up-and-coming talent in the country.
Under 12 – 1991
3 Junior – 1992, 1993, 1994
9 Senior – 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2001, 2003
2002 – I came second against Jenna Buys
Edmonton, Canada – 1996
Lausanne, Switzerland – 1997
Minneapolis, USA – 1998
Helsinki, Finland – 1999
Nice, France – 2000 (placing 24th)
Vancouver, Canada – 2001
Nagano, Japan – 2002
Washington D.C. USA – 2003
Moscow, Russia – 2005
Nagano, Japan – 1998 (I was also the flag bearer in the opening ceremony)