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Far From Home, a Cambodian on Ice

For Michael Chau, last month’s figure skating medal was nothing new, but it was was something special.

The 17-year-old skater won a silver medal with his partner, Tracy Tanovich, 11, in the Pairs Juniors Nationals, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

He earned the medal just 15 minutes from where his family lives, a family he has been away from for five years, training.

The son of Cambodian refugees from Battambang who moved to Minnesota 27 years ago, Chau has been ice skating since he was 7.

“By the time Michael was 12, my wife and I recognized Michael’s talent and allowed him to go to Florida to train as a single skater,” his father, Thyna Chau, said in a recent interview.

The training led to partner skating with Tanovich, national competitions and a bronze in the 2006 national championships.

The two won the Novice Pairs competition at the US Figure Skating Championships in 2007.

“It was very difficult being away from my family at such a young age, but I’m independent,” Chau told VOA Khmer in a recent interview. “I really enjoyed being on my own and getting to be my own person. And Tracy and I have great support at the rink.”

The training has led to a close relationship with his partner, he said, one that he hopes will lead them to the Olympics in 2014.

Chau is now back in Florida, training.