SYDNEY (AFP) - Figure skater Harley Windsor said it was "super-overwhelming" after he was named as Australia's first indigenous Winter Olympian, capping an unlikely rise after he first took to the ice in Sydney.
Windsor and his partner, Russian-born Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya, got the nod for Pyeongchang after being crowned world junior champions last season, claiming Australia's first global figure skating title.
Windsor, 21, and his 17-year-old partner do not even speak the same language, but they will represent Australia at the Games in South Korea in February - provided Alexandrovskaya receives her Australian citizenship in time.
"It's a huge thing just making it to the Olympics and on top of that, being the first indigenous athlete is super-overwhelming - I couldn't be more proud," Windsor told reporters.
"When we first started I didn't expect we would show results so quickly, but we improved really, really fast."
Windsor was considered too tall as a teenager to be a singles skater and his Russian coaches, keen to keep him in the sport, began a search for someone to be his partner in a pair.
They tracked down Moscow-based Alexandrovskaya, who had been overlooked by the Russian system and, after a trial, she agreed to switch countries.
"The Olympics was still very up in the air until this season but we had a goal and we were training really well and halfway through the season the possibility became a reality," said Windsor.
"We have progressed a lot this year. We're a lot more mature on the ice and we don't look like a junior pair any more."
Their coach Galina Pachin believes the pair can finish in the top 15 at their first Olympics, but will need more time to establish themselves with the international judges before pressing for higher honours.
They leave this weekend for more training in Moscow followed by a senior competition in Estonia and the junior grand prix final in Tokyo.
Australia has had 51 indigenous athletes at the Summer Olympics, including runner Cathy Freeman who lit the torch at the 2000 Games in Sydney.
But Windsor will be Australia's first indigenous athlete in 82 years of taking part in the Winter Olympics.
"Having Harley on the team as Australia's first indigenous Winter Olympian is of huge significance," Australian chef de mission Ian Chesterman said.
"It reflects the increasing growth of winter sports across Australia."
Aborigines inhabited Australia for more than 60,000 years before the first European explorers arrived, but have since become marginalised and are the country's most disadvantaged group.