Durban’s skating Dream Girls

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Durban figure skaters Tamarah and Chelsea Jacobs’ dream came true when they were torch-bearers in the 23rd Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea in February.
by LAUREN SHAPIRO | Apr 19, 2018

Tamarah, now 25, started skating at the age of seven. In 2005, she represented South Africa in the three-week Dream Programme in PyeongChang. Initiated in 2004, the programme was part of South Korea’s pledge to the International Olympic Committee to promote interest and participation in winter sports across the globe.

Tamarah’s professional skating career ended in 2009 when she tore the ligaments in her ankle while attempting an ambitious double-Axel move. “Now I spend my time coaching others and promoting the sport,” affirms Tamarah.

At 16 years old, Chelsea has earned academic colours and KwaZulu-Natal touch rugby colours, as well as her national colours in figure skating. She returned from the Winter Olympics to participate in KwaZulu-Natal’s interprovincial figure skating championship, where she took fourth place.

The all-expenses paid trip to South Korea was a dream come true for the sisters and their parents. They spent two weeks in the country, experiencing tourist hotspots and restaurants (chopsticks and all), and practising for their performance in the torch relay.

The Jacobs girls were the only South Africans invited to bear the prestigious Olympic torch. “I was jumping for joy,” enthuses Tamarah.

“It was an unreal experience,” recalls Chelsea. “I was a bit nervous to be on live TV streaming, but once I got over that, it was overwhelming and exciting.”

The girls were also reunited with their skating heroine, Yuna Kim, South Korea’s two-time Olympic figure skating champion. They met her at a press conference in Durban in 2011, when it was announced that PyeongChang would host the 2018 games.

The Jacobs girls’ story is remarkable – so much so that shortly before the Winter Olympics, a Korean film company arrived in Durban with camera crews to shoot a two-part TV documentary on the lives of the siblings and their passion for figure skating.

The documentary, titled Dream Girls, showcases the training and dedication required to partake in a winter sport in a summer country. It has received over 40 000 Instagram hits since it was released online during the Winter Olympics.

Tamarah and Chelsea hope that their exposure will help promote figure skating as a sport here in South Africa.

  • You can watch Dream Girls on YouTube:
  • Note: While the commentary is in Korean, most of the programme, including interviews with the Jacobs sisters, is in English. A full English version is set to be released in the near future.


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