Home Figure Skating News Jennifer Kirk: Online Interview

Jennifer Kirk: Online Interview

by Golden Skate
Paula Slater

Involved in gymnastics until the age of nine, Jennifer Kirk's interest turned to figure skating.

Jennifer Anne Kirk was born August 15, 1984 in Newton, Mass. Involved in gymnastics until the age of nine, her interest turned to figure skating. At the age of 10, she began training with coaches Evy and Mary Scotvold. Kirk earned a bronze at the 1998 U.S. National Championships as a novice and a bronze in 1999 at the same event as a junior.

While Kirk moved into the senior ranks during thereafter, she remained on the junior circuit that year, capturing the silver medal at the 1999 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final and a whopping gold at the 2000 Junior World Championships. Kirk made her senior international at the 2000 Trophee Lalique Championships where she placed third.

At the 2001 U.S. National Championships, Kirk finished a respectable fourth, behind Michelle Kwan, Sarah Hughes and Angela Nikodinov. Prior to the 2002 Olympic season, Jenny experienced a severe loss when her mother, Pat Harris, lost her battle to breast cancer.

Kirk dedicated the season’s performances to her mother, emerging as a changed athlete with a renewed perspective and newfound strength. After shortly missing the podium at the 2002 U.S. Nationals, she claimed her first senior international win, at the Four Continents Championships, and became a member of the senior World Championship team for the first time. Kirk began the season with the Campbell’s International Figure Skating Classic in New York where she placed fourth. The 19-year-old placed a spectacular second at 2003 Skate America last month and is scheduled to compete at the upcoming NHK Trophy Grand Prix event in Japan.

Larry: Thanks for doing this interview. This is great! I caught your segment on Arthur the Aardvark, which featured a cartoon of Michelle Kwan. I think that you are an outstanding role model for young children. Do you feel a special responsibility to your youngest fans now that you have achieved such a high level of visibility in the sport? Do you have any more children’s programming in the works?

Jennifer: Thank you! Of course I feel a big responsibility to be a good role model to younger skaters and to set a good example for skaters that are coming up in the sport. As for future work with children’s programming, nothing is planned; however I would love to do some more work in the years to come!

Garrett: Hey Jenny! First of all, I want to tell you how much I enjoy your skating and what a great person you are! My question is do you have any advice on keeping your nerves down during a competition? Thanks!

Jennifer: Keeping your nerves under control during a competition is crucial. Sometimes people think that getting nervous is a bad thing, but I’ve found that being nervous can be very good. It gives you an adrenaline rush and lets your body know that what you’re about to do is important and matters. However, being overly nervous is often detrimental to a skater and produces a poor skate. The most important thing is finding a balance between being excited and just a little bit nervous, and becoming beyond nervous where your muscles get tight and you psych yourself out.

Rachel: Hi Jennifer, I really love the beautiful way that you are skate! Can you tell me who made your costumes that you wore at Skate Canada last season? They are just stunning!

Jennifer: All the dresses that have been made for me last season and the coming season are designed and made by Jef Billings.

Larry: Do you have any favorite composers or specific musical styles that you plan to explore?

Jennifer: I really like my short program and show program this season. Both programs are skated to music from the movie, Chicago. I like skating to music that brings out my personality and my ballet training.

Julie K. from PA: What have you been working on to improve for this season?

Jennifer: This season I have really worked on my spins, the consistency of my jumps, my choreography, as well as my endurance and the overall strength of my body. I think that one thing that is new for me this year is that I’m doing a ton more off-ice in addition to my training on the ice. I feel like my body is so much stronger and I have more control over my skating.

Brigitte from Riverside Skating Club in Windsor, ON: How do you like training in Detroit? When you’re competitive career is over, will you compete in adult skating events? How do you feel about adults picking up skating around the age of 38 to 50? I’m 40 and this is my third year skating and competing freestyle.

Jennifer: I really love training in Detroit. I feel very lucky to be able to train in such a supportive and competitive environment. I also am lucky that there is never more than ten skaters on the ice while I’m skating during the day so I have many opportunities to get my music played as many times as I would like. I probably will skate in shows when my competitive career is over, but I don’t think that I will return to competition as an adult skater. I think that it’s great that more adults are taking up skating and competing at the adult nationals. In my mind you’re never too old to start skating as long as you love it!

Tom: One criticism leveled at Tara Lipinski (at least before she won her Olympic Gold), was that her jumps were not very high. The same has been said about you. Do you agree with this observation, and if so how are you working to achieve more height?

Jennifer: I think that definitely last season I showed much improvement in the height of my jumps and the speed into and out of them. Mr. Callaghan has really helped me in this aspect of my skating.

Rafael from Brazil: In your opinion, which is the most difficult jump to perform?

Jennifer: For me personally I would have to say that any sort of a triple triple is the hardest jump to perform. This is difficult because you have to be able to maintain speed after the first jump in order to do a good second jump.

Anonymous: How did you balance school and skating? Did you ever feel burned-out from skating and if so, how did you handle it? I love your positive attitude, Jennifer. You are a wonderful inspiration to younger skaters!

Jennifer: Thank you! Since I moved to Michigan I have been able to focus 100% of my energy to my skating so I haven’t had to deal with the conflict of managing my time between school and skating. I did however go to a public high school while training full time. There were periods when this was difficult, but I was lucky to have supportive teachers who understood the needs of my skating and allowed me to make up assignments on my own time. I also was very determined to graduate from school on time and also be the best skater I could, so I found that being determined and very goal oriented helped me accomplish my goals both on the ice and in school.

Jon: Jenny, you have great on-screen charisma. The camera loves you. Do you plan on doing any modeling or acting in the future?

Jennifer: This year I am modeling for Capezio Skate Wear and you can find their ads in many of the top skating magazines. In the future I would love to do more modeling jobs and I hope to have a career in broadcasting or do commercial work as well. I really love being in front of the camera and I can’t wait to do more work in this field!

Renae: What do you look for when selecting music?

Jennifer: When I select music I usually have to listen to it over and over again and see if it makes me want to skate and if it sparks my interest. I like to skate to music that makes me feel comfortable and happy when I hear it.

Angie: What has been your favorite skating moment thus far?

Jennifer: I’d have to say that three special moments come to mind as my all time favorites in my skating career. The first is when I found out that I won junior worlds after skating a perfect long program. I was so thrilled that I won such a prestigious competition and that I had skated so well. My next favorite moment was my short program from the 2001 National Championships. Nationals took place in my home town that year and I put a ton of pressure on myself to skate well in front of all my family and friends. I skated from my heart and had a blast skating in front of the audience. Lastly, my most recent favorite moment was during my short program at last years Nationals in Dallas. I had a really bad warm up and I drew to skate first right after the difficult six minutes of warming up. I am very proud that I was able to put the warm up out of my head and just focus on my program and to skate the best short program of the season when it mattered the most.

Gail: I know you’re a big fan of Todd Eldredge and I was just curious as to which of his programs is your favorite?

Jennifer: I am a big fan of Todd’s skating and I am really lucky to get to train on the same ice with him every day! Right now I would have to say that my favorite program of his is the one that he’s working on right now. He’s skating to Spanish music with a lot of drums and I think it’s extremely cool!

Ashley M.: Are you currently enrolled in any college courses, and if not, do you plan to in the near future?

Jennifer: Presently I am focused 100% on my skating. In the future I would love to take some college courses and major in broadcasting.

Nicole M: Jenny, what has been your favorite place that you’ve traveled to for a competition, and why?

Jennifer: My favorite place that I’ve traveled to has been Paris and I also enjoy traveling to Japan and I LOVE New York City.

Kaitie C: What’s been your favorite program so far that you’ve done and why?

Jennifer: My favorite program from the past is my short program to, Evita. My current favorite program is my show program to Roxie, from Chicago.

Larry: During commentary about your programs, Dick Button mentions a “high” kick when you do your flip and lutz. Is it something you work to fix with your coach? Does your coach even mention it? Is it a technical problem or another jumping style?

Jennifer: Mr. Callaghan and I have worked very hard this summer on my technique and consistency on my triple flip and lutz. I think that the problem of my high kicking free leg originated after the growth spurt that I underwent last summer. Presently I don’t even think about this problem anymore and my jumps feel very consistent and stable!

VC: Do you help design your costumes? What kind of skates do you wear, and what do you do with them afterwards?

Jennifer: My costumes are designed by Jef Billings. Usually he comes up with a couple of design ideas after hearing my music and I choose the one that I like the most. I wear SP-Teri skates and usually when I’m done with a pair I just keep them in the hall closet.

Mark A.: You are one of the best in the world! Your artistry has been great and your look has changed so much! How has your move to Richard Callaghan affected and changed your skating?

Jennifer: Thank you! Working with Mr. Callaghan has been so great. He and Olga have completely transformed my skating and my look on and off the ice. Before moving to Michigan I was only concerned with my jumps. Mr. Callaghan has taught me how important spins and connecting steps are in addition to high quality jumps in a program. I also work with Olga every day on perfecting the choreography in my programs. Starting this season Olga and I work twice a week on stroking exercises, which has really helped the speed in my programs and my overall ice coverage.

Katia: I am taking figure skating lessons and I’m about to learn a jump. I’m really scared and wondered if you could give me some advice?

Jennifer: The most important thing in jumping is to trust yourself and to have good timing and technique. Sometimes I find it helps to try jumps off the ice before trying them on the ice for the first time. If you’re afraid of hurting yourself if you fall, then I suggest buying some crash pads to protect yourself from the pain of falling.

Paula: During your competitive career thus far, what was your most embarrassing moment or occurrence? Is there anything you can share with the public that we don’t know already?

Jennifer: Luckily I haven’t had any really embarrassing moments during competitions. I remember though once I messed up on five of my seven jumps and that was a little bit embarrassing. In practice I have done silly things like forget to take my skate guards off results in me slipping on the ice with them still on my blades.

Paula: What do you feel are your strengths in skating?

Jennifer: I think my main strength is my consistency under pressure.

Paula: What areas do you feel could be improved in?

Jennifer: In my mind everything I do on the ice can always be done better. I am definitely my hardest critic. In my mind my jumps can always be faster and higher. My spins can always be faster with better positions and my programs can always be more polished. But overall I have worked extremely hard on every single aspect of my skating this summer and I am very proud of the progress that I have made.

Paula: Is there any particular piece of music that you would like to skate to that you haven’t had the opportunity to do so? Can you elaborate?

Jennifer: I always try to skate to different types of music that show off different sides of my personality. So far there hasn’t been any music that I have liked to skate to and have been unable to.

Paula: Is there any particular music you absolutely refuse to skate to and if so, why?

Jennifer: No, I like to try all different kinds of music. I generally don’t like to skate to music that a lot of people have skated to before me, or someone’s “signature” music.

Paula: What would you describe to be the most definitive moment in the history of women’s figure skating and why?

Jennifer: I think that during the early 90’s with the first triple Axels being landed was a very definitive period in women’s skating. For men skating, all the new quads are very amazing and our sport continues to grow and change every year.

Paula: In the pro circuit, whom do you admire the most in each discipline?

Jennifer: I really admire Kurt Browning, Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Todd Eldredge.

Paula: You’ve mentioned that you would like to become an author. Can you share with us any ideas on what kind of literature you’d like to publish?

Jennifer: I like to write about issues that interest me and I hope to write fiction novels.

Paula: You began training with Fedor Andreev as a pair team this summer. How do you like it so far?

Jennifer: I love skating pairs! It has been so exciting learning all these new elements and just learning to skate with a partner. Fedor and I get a long really well and it’s always fun to have someone to train with. Skating is such an individual sport, that I find it really great knowing that I have someone who is cheering for me no matter what.

Paula: It must be difficult to ‘synchronize’ yourself with another skater in this aspect after being a single skater for so long – for both of you! What are you learning from the experience?

Jennifer: It has been difficult learning how to synchronize my skating with a partner. Both Fedor and I are so used to doing thing by ourselves that at times it’s challenging knowing that you are skating with another person as one. Sometimes I want to add in another crossover going into a jump and then I realize that Fedor only thinks we’re doing two crossovers so if I add in another one it will mess us both up. Learning pairs has taught me a lot of patience. At times it can get frustrating when we don’t get an element right away, but Fedor and I usually work hard and fix any problems that we may be experiencing on an element.

Paula: Do you think there is a possibility that you may compete as a pair in the future?

Jennifer: I definitely plan hope to compete in pairs in the future!

Paula: How is your hip? Is there still a loose bone chip that aggravates it or keeps part of your hip from fusing back? Are you in pain?

Jennifer: My hip feels great. The bone chip is still loose, but I have worked tremendously hard during the spring and summer to strengthen my body and the muscles around my hip to keep it from popping out of place when I skate. I am so happy with the progress that I’ve made! I feel really strong and pain free!

Paula: Thank you Jennifer! Is there anything you’d like to add or to say to your fans?

Jennifer: I would like all my fans to know that I really appreciate all your support. I could never thank everyone enough or tell them just how good it feels to know that you have people in the audience cheering for you and encouraging you. I feel so lucky and I hope that I can continue making people feel happy by watching me skate for many years to come!  — Jennifer Kirk

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