Kiwi sports star calls for Aussie help
Champion gay New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup has made a last-minute appeal to his friends and supporters across the Tasman to help him win a scholarship that will allow him to continue competing at the highest level.
Skjellerup, who now lives and trains in Melbourne, is in the running for a People’s Choice Scholarship from financial services company AMP as part of their ‘Do Your Thing’ initiative. He is currently in second place in the public voting which ends this weekend.
Skjellerup has won five national titles and broken numerous New Zealand national records throughout his speed skating career which began at age 10 after a rugby union injury.
The 27-year-old is now aiming for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi after finishing 16th at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in the 1000m short track speed skating event. Along with Australian gold medal winning diver Matthew Mitcham, Skjellerup is one of only a handful of openly gay Olympians with both also ambassadors for the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland, USA.
The Kiwi sports star is hoping to finish in the top eight of this year’s World Championships to be held in Hungary and he told SX this week the scholarship would mean a lot to him as he currently received no assistance from government sporting agencies.
“I am unsponsored and unsupported by the New Zealand sporting agencies,” he said.
“Winning would be a great boost to my morale, as it will be encouraging to know that people believe in me and what I am trying to achieve.”
Skjellerup will be in Sydney in early October for the Australian Open Speed Skating Championships and he said locals who backed him for the scholarship wouldn’t be let down.
“Aussies should get behind me because if they do, I will personally give them ownership rights to Russell Crowe and the Pavlova,” he told SX.
“Let’s end this feud once and for all!”
On a serious note, Skjellerup said it would be a “big deal” for an openly gay athlete to win a people’s choice award.
“It shouldn’t be. One day I hope it won’t be,” he said. “But right now I think it says something great about how far our society has come.”
Voting for the AMP People’s Choice Scholarship closes at 11.59pm on September 30. To vote for Blake, visit http://ampvoting.orcas.co.nz/Applicants/Details/10502