When you think of Mexico, “ice skating” probably isn’t the first sport that comes to mind. But Mexican ice skating Olympian Donovan Carrillo wants to change that. 

The 22-year-old ice skater from Guadalajara is the first Mexican male figure skating Olympian in 30 years and the first Mexican skater ever to advance to the Olympic free skate final event. 

In what is being calling the best performance of his career, Carrillo completed a routine in a sparkling, Mexican-designed black and gold costume that was studded with Swarovski crystals. He danced his routine to “Black Magic Woman” by fellow Mexicano, Carlos Santana.

Carrillo’s routine included a quadruple toe loop, a triple axel and a triple lutz-triple toe, all of which he performed nearly flawlessly. “I was super happy. I tried to calm down a little bit because I had the whole routine [ahead of me],” he told reporters while discussing his opening jump.

And although he makes it look easy, the road to the Beijing Olympics hasn’t been smooth-sailing for Carrillo. 

Mexico — a country best known for its excellence in soccer — doesn’t house an Olympic-sized skating rink anywhere in the country. In general, skating rinks in Mexico are few and far between. 

When his hometown rink closed down, Carrillo had to move from his hometown of Guadalajara to Leon to live with his ice skating coach. Since then, he’s been away from his family.

Carrillo has faced judgmental attitudes about his interest in ice skating from other Mexicans — a culture that is dominated by machismo and hyper-traditional views. 

“We have some challenges in Mexico,” Carrillo said of his ice skating journey in the country. “One of the challenges that we have, it’s sometimes people think that artistic sports are only for women, so that’s something I had to fight when I was a kid.”

But Carrillo seems mostly unfazed by any backlash, saying he’s having the time of his life on the rink.

“I didn’t want it to end,” he said. “I wanted to keep skating and living the Olympic dream. For me to qualify also for the free skating is a dream come true.”

And while he’s living his dream by qualifying for the free skating final event, Carrillo views this year’s sporting event as a learning experience versus a shot at Gold. On Tuesday, he scored 79.69 — a personal best for him, but far behind the current world leader, American figure skater Nathan Chen who scored 113.97 points in the same competition. 

“I think this Olympics — thinking more in the future — are going to be key to prepare myself for the next Olympic cycle, with the main focus on Milan 2026,” Carrillo told reporters of what he expected success-wise this time around.

If this is just the beginning of Donovan Carrillo’s career, then the sky is most definitely the limit for the Mexican figure skater.

This article has been updated for clarity.