Firing up international ice rinks, this skater won’t let anything get in the way of gold


It’s not that Gian-Quen Isaacs doesn’t fear falling. Since she started figure skating at the age of seven, Isaacs has felt the frozen ground beneath her more times than she can remember. It takes failing over and over to get her technique right. But what stands out in her mind is when she rises up to perform. With arms perfectly poised, Isaacs glides across the ice. The embellishments on her leotard sparkle in the light, but it’s her spins and twirls that truly dazzle. In that moment, where Isaacs comes from doesn’t matter so much as where she’s headed. “Just because there’s no snow in the Cape Flats, doesn’t mean I can’t be South Africa’s best ice skater,” she says.

Isaacs started entering the South African National Figure Skating Championships in 2014, and since then has placed first in the Juvenile and Pre-Novice sections. At just 13 years old, Isaacs is not only remarkably talented, but incredibly mature as well. She’s aware of her circumstances, and what it’s taken to get this far. “I’ve realised how lucky I am to be living my dream,” Isaacs says. “Although we have little money, my mom has supported me by sending me to international competitions.” Hours of practice have culminated in one spellbinding performance after another. Last year, Isaacs competed in Croatia and Hungary, and was the only South African figure skater to win international gold.

These successes make it hard to imagine that the athlete could have ever doubted herself. “When I first started skating, I was extremely nervous but excited,” Isaacs says. Today, she’s emboldened by the impact her talent has on the rest of South Africa. “What I love about representing my country would be how proud people are of you going out there,” Isaacs says. While the usual jitters before each performance remain, she takes to the ice wearing her confidence as comfortably as a sequined dress. Isaacs is undefeatable. “When you love something, you won’t allow the fear of failure to stop you,” she says.