Jostling for international rankings positions and making an impression during the international championship season is where it’s at for the world’s leading figure skaters.
The initial qualifications for each country at PyeongChang are the World Championships in March 2017, but the coming World Championships and next week’s Four Continents Championship, play a vital role in determining the all-important ISU rankings, which determine entries into next season’s highly-coveted ISU Grand Prix series.
Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA) Figure Skaters and National Champions Brendan Kerry and Kailani Craine, lead a seven-strong Australian team into the 2016 Four Continents, which will be held from February 16 to 21 in Taipei City, Taipei and both are looking for personal best performances.
For Los Angeles based Brendan Kerry, it’s his return to the form he showed earlier in the season at Skate America that is fuelling his determination.
“I feel like I’m actually in shape,” said Kerry. “Fitness wise this is the best, so far, I’ve been in years. I absolutely want to crack 200 points again,” he added.
Training the quad jumps into his short and free programs whilst dealing with niggling injuries has been a challenge.
A bursar on his heel, slight bone bruising on the shin, and minor groin pain, are not caused by the quad jumps, but all parts of the body are required for those high-level jumps.
“I probably overdid the running and my guess about the groin pain is excessive spinning; but it’s all fine,” Kerry said. “I’m planning two quads in the free program and I’ve been training both the salchow and toe for the short,” he added.
“The past few weeks have been equally gruelling and amazing – figuring out how to train the programs every day with two quads, one quad or on some days none.”
Along with his main coach Tammy Gambill, Kerry has been working regularly with legendary Olympic Gold Medallist coach Frank Carroll.
“The programs have been consistent. We will all decide once we are in Taipei which quad will be in the short. I’ve landed both in the free program run-throughs multiple times, so that’s going well too,” Kerry said.
The ‘Frank factor’ is not lost on the 21-year-old when he was asked how he feels about having such a legendary coach by his side.
“I feel nervous and excited, because he is Frank Carroll. I really don’t want to mess up with Frank there,” Kerry said.
Brendan will be looking to advance on his 17th placing from last year.
Los Angeles has also been a temporary home since early January for 17-year-old Australian Ladies Champion Kailani Craine.
“I’m ready to go,” Craine said. “I’ve been training five sessions a day every day except Sunday. I feel really good going into this comp and my programs are really consistent,” she added.
“My body is feeling stronger, particularly on the technical things. Holding positions is easier. Usually when I get to USA I get sore, but all that work in the NSWIS gym and now this training, has been good,” Craine said.
The emerging talent has always been there, but there’s newly acquired senior, elite focus coming to the fore.
“I’ve definitely been working on the technical side because I need that technical score and doing many program run throughs,” Craine added. There’s also been a lot of focus on refining the step sequences and the coaches have been working on skating skills between the elements – removing the ‘bounce’ in my skating.”
Along with US coach Tiffany Chin, Crista Fassi has been providing a guiding hand.
“Crista has added more rockers between the elements. All these details are important.”
The results from Four Continents will likely determine Australia’s entries to the World Championships in Boston next month. Australia has one entry into each discipline but the skaters must have reached the minimum qualifying score to compete.
Also competing for a spot on the world team is 2014 Sochi Olympian, Brooklee Han.
Joining Brendan, Kailani and Brooklee is Queensland’s Andrew Dodds and newcomers to the senior international stage Katie Pasfield (Ladies) and National Junior Ice Dance Champions Matilda Friend and William Badaoui.
The competition gets underway with the Ice Dance and Ladies Short Program on Thursday, 18 February.
All the action can be seen on SBS-TV on Saturdays from 2pm – 3.30pm.
Saturday 20th February
1400 – 1530: Four Continents Championship (Mens and Pairs)
Saturday 27th February
1400 – 1530: Four Continents Championship (Ladies and Dance)
IMAGE: Brendan Kerry in action © Michael Santer Oz Skater Magazine