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Get to know figure skater Edrian Paul Celestino, Philippines' representative to Nebelhorn Olympic qualifier

Filipino-Canadian figure skater Edrian Paul Celestino is vying for a slot to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China when he competes at the Nebelhorn Trophy on September 22 to 25.

The 23-year-old is aiming to push the Philippines to its third straight Winter Olympics appearance after Michael Martinez represented the country in Sochi, Russia and Pyeongchang, South Korea in the 2014 and 2018 Games.

The reigning national champion for men's figure skating, Celestino began his skating career in Canada but started representing the Philippines in 2019.

He competed in three ISU Challenger Series tournaments during the same season and capped the year with a fourth place finish at the Southeast Asian Games.

In an April interview with selected media, Celestino opened up on how he got into the sport. He also shared that he plays basketball and coaches aspiring skaters in his free time.

Here is an excerpt from the interview, lightly edited for length and clarity.

How did you get into figure skating?

I actually wanted to become a hockey player. Naturally being from Canada, hockey is such a popular sport especially during the winter, but in order to do that, I had to take figure skating lessons which I didn’t like. I remember my first few lessons, I was spending more time on my butt than my blades, but with time, I ended up liking it because of my coach and just continued to pick it up from then on.

So you abandoned the hockey plan and just went full figure skating?

When I got to elementary school that’s where I kinda questioned my path in terms of sports because of my classmates—you know, like peer pressure. People thought figure skating was weird for a guy, especially back then, and that it’s not a manly sport. I’d say about high school, that’s when I had the choice between basketball and figure skating.

How did you transition from skating for leisure to skating competitively?

I don’t think I really noticed my transition from me just skating to competitive skating, it was so smooth that I guess I never got caught up into it. But I think the very first time where I really wanted to go to the Olympics is when I watched Patrick Chan in Vancouver. He’s definitely my favorite skater. I always want to skate like him, I wanna jump like him, I just wanna be like him. But in recent years, I realized I don’t wanna be like him, I just want to be me. I just want to be my own person in figure skating. So just that change of that mindset pushes me further.

Some people decide to dedicate their whole lives into this sport. Did you go to college? Or did you have to think about balancing your education and other things you want to do with figure skating?

I finally finished college. My program was in commerce, so like, accounting, finances, and it was a three-year program. My final year of that program was actually when I made the switch to the Philippines and that was the year where I felt like I was gone every month for like, a week and a half for competitions or just traveling in general. So that final year was a little bit difficult. In terms of balancing, it wasn’t so bad as my college was very flexible with student-athletes.

Were you doing other things aside from figure skating before the pandemic?

Only recently, I kind of wanted to go back into school so I could start working. But it would’ve been an intensive program, so that might’ve conflicted with the training. That’s the only reason why I decided not to. Just seeing, or basing on how long we’ve been in quarantine, it’s been practically that full year. I kinda wished I started back then but it’s never too late for school.

I actually wanted to go into IT support. I’m very into computers, I thought maybe I could just go into that and it would be a flexible schedule that could work very well with my coaching hours, if ever that comes back.

What are your most memorable moments in figure skating?

I think it’s my first year I transitioned and competed for the Philippines, especially nationals. That was a hard one too because I didn’t have my coach there so I was kind of by myself with my mom. But that gave me the privilege or like the chance to really connect with her and just all the Filipino fans, the parents, the other skaters that were competing there as well. I felt very welcome and warm. Following that up was my first international challenger, and I remember my very first practice on the ice was with Jason Brown, Yuzuru Hanyu, Camden Pulkinen, and I think my coach was upset with me because I spent more time looking at them than actually doing my things.

Even though maybe it wasn’t like my best performance there, that was just a memorable moment for me, just witnessing and realizing that instead of me watching them on TV or in the internet, I’m there too. This is like a game changer for me. And following up that realization that’s where I started competing more consistently and probably the best performances I’ve ever done in my life. I started doing more clean programs at home which I never did before either and then in Finland (Finlandia Trophy) for me it was a clean program despite having two step outs on a triple loop so that was a memorable year of performance.

How do you put together your programs? Do you choose your own music? How involved are you in the choreography and everything else?

I have two different choreographers, one of them has known me since I was 12, so we have strong bond and she knows me very well especially with my personality to make sure of who I am and my feeling. The other choreographer is more recent but let’s say she’s known me for three, four years now and both of them work very similarly, they kinda choose music that fits who I am. The only difference would be last year when I had my new free program and my choreographer and I were just looking at all my past programs and what kind of genre I’ve been skating to and we noticed that there is one that we want to try which could be new but not too different. We chose contemporary and that’s something I’ve always wanted to experiment on. It was like dance or like off-ice dance. So not on-ice dance but we kinda wanted to mesh skating and dance together to make a program that’s more about raw feeling or surrender.

Do you have a favorite move or favorite part of a program?

It would be the footwork, that’s basically where I spend most of my time working on the ice, not because I need to but just because I like it so much that I should probably should spend less time doing it. That’s the one element where I can really showcase my technicalities in terms of turns and edges and I could give a little more expression from the facials, but I do also like jumps a lot. But definitely step sequence would be my go-to.

What would you say is your best jump?

Lutz is my favorite jump, followed by the toe which is a close second.

Do you have a triple axel?

Yeah, so I’m basically trying to maintain my triple axel since I don’t get the chance to do it very often with the training time. But before COVID-19 I was working on quad salchow and quad toe. I was doing a lot from the harness, just to prevent from bad falls or potential injuries.

What are your thoughts on the debate about artistry vs athleticism in figure skating?

My opinion on the whole quad era... I’m for it but also against it at the same time. But what the ISU did last year with the changes of the points or the scoring system, for people who are doing quads, it’s more of a high risk-high reward kind of deal. At some point it was getting so technical, like everyone was just busting maybe five quads in a single program which is unbelievable. If you told someone that a couple of years ago, they wouldn’t believe you. So I do like that they’re resetting it back a bit so that we can focus again more on the artistic side.

Are you meticulous in checking how many points you get for each element?

Those scores are basically things that are beyond our control, so it’s not something I usually get upset about, it’s more like the technical aspect if I actually did it or not. So that’s the only think that I can think about. But in terms of if I get meticulous about my score, not so much anymore. I think because I used to be so caught up about it that I would start to perform worse. Because let’s say I’m doing my free program and I’m doing one element, I’d think about that element, I would say “Oh, I didn’t do it well.” So I’m subtracting points. And then because it’s like a negative thought, I started performing worse for each other element and sometimes it just carries on like a domino effect. So now, I just kind of do an element, and when it’s done I forget it.

Who is your figure skating G.O.A.T?

I think my answer’s a little biased—maybe a lot—probably Patrick Chan. I’d say a second for me would be Daisuke Takahashi. He’s always been a favorite as well. I always thought that he always pushed the artistic boundary in the earlier years.

What do you envision for Philippine skating in the future?

Whenever I’m in the Philippines I like to stay a bit longer after I competed so I can just skate there and maybe just skate with the other skaters, just share some experiences, like hints or tips that I can give, because in the further future I do plan to coach in the Philippines. That’s something that I want to do, I want to share my experience and knowledge.

—MGP, GMA News