Fabiano Fernando has gone from Brazilian hottie to ice prince in just six months of competitive skating. Now the lean and dreamy 30-year-old Gay Games medalist talks to RealJock.com about coming to the sport late in life, overcoming his injuries, and savoring his victories.
How did you get into ice-skating?
In Brazil, growing up, I loved watching ice-skating. Every time a competition in America was broadcast in Brazil, I was glued to the screen. I thought, One day, I'm going to ice-skate, but in Brazil, especially in the South where I'm from, it's almost impossible to get ice—we have it once a year for like half a month. So I started rolling skating instead, and I did that for seven years.
Then when I came to San Francisco three years ago, I decided to get a coach and train as an ice-skater for real. In the beginning it was just once a month for 45 minutes. It was about learning to stroke and to skate backward. And then I found a coach who brought me to a whole new level. He said, "If you want to do this, you have to do this right." So now it's five days a week at 7:45 in the morning, three hours a session.
What's the biggest difference you've found between ice-skating and roller skating?
With roller-skating, you have four wheels under the skate—it'slike you have a little car under each foot, so you have your balance already there. But with ice-skating, you have to learn to find your balance on a thin blade. It's a lot harder.
Have you had any skating-related injuries?
I broke my knee when I tried to skate in an open ice rink in Scotland. And that's pretty much it—thank God.
Did you have any doubt that you would go back to skating after you healed from your injury?
Totally not. I asked my doctor about it, and he said if I did exactly what he said to do I would get back. And that's what I did. I sat around with my leg up for three months and then I was back on the ice.
How long have you been skating competitively?
Just for the past six months. I did the Challenge Cup here in San Francisco, and I placed second in my category. and then I did the Gay Games, where I earned a gold and silver.
What was the experience of winning at the Gay Games like?
Just beingat the Games was an experience in itself. It was my first big competition, so I didn't know what to expect. When I got there, I saw all these skaters, and everybody was so supportive, and it was just fantastic.
What are your skating goals now?
I'm trying to get all my double jumps down now, and that'll take another six months. After that I'm going for the triples—and hope not to break another knee. [Laughs.]
I'm also training for adult nationals in April. And I want to see if I can go for freestyle 10 in the next Gay Games in Cologne. Right now I'm at freestyle 5. Freestyle 10 means you're at the top of the game—all your jumps are triple.
What is your response when people say ice-skating is a sport for queens?
I don't care. When I take my friends to public sessions on the rink, they don't last 10 minutes. They say, "My ankles are hurting—Ican't take it." Yeah, can you imagine me on the ice three hours a day, five days a week?
What advice do you have for people who want to start skating as adults—in their late teens, twenties or even thirties?
Go for it, and don't be afraid. Everybody has to start somewhere. For a while it'll seem like you'll never get the hang of it, that you're not progressing—trust me, one day it'll come to you.
What would you like people to know about skating that they might not already know?
It is very, very hard. People watch TV and they say, "Oh, it's so pretty. It looks so easy." Trust me, to hold your leg out in a spiral, to pick up your foot when you go up for a jump—a single jump, a double jump, a triple jump—it takes great strength.
Skating is also a very expensive sport, because of coaching—and you have to have one every time you're on the ice. Coaches charge by the half hour, and if you're there for two, three hours a session, it costs a lot. Plus you have to pay for travel and ice time, so if anybody wants to sponsor a poor Brazilian skater I'd be most grateful. [Laughs.]
How important is skating in your life?
I can't go a week without it. I wish I could do more. When I found out last year that I was HIV-positive, there were times I didn't want to get out of bed. But skating saved me. I would tell myself, Come on, get up—it's time to get back out on the ice.