The beginning of the Olympic season could not have been better for Australian figure skater Kailani Craine. The 19-year-old from Newcastle won the first international senior-level competition of her career with Nebelhorn Trophy and secured an Olympic spot. Shortly afterwards, Craine was invited to Skate Canada and will debut on the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating this week.
“I am very excited to compete in the Grand Prix series, Skate Canada,” shared Craine. “When you talk Grand Prix series, it means you are talking about the selected elite in the world of ice skating, an invitational event, and I’ve been waiting for my chance to debut. I am beyond excited as I have never been to Canada before, but also excited to compete amongst the best in the world.”
The Australian, who is coached in California by Tiffany Chin, Jere Michael and Alex Chang, and by Galina Pachina in Australia, was extremely determined to get that Olympic spot that she had missed when finishing 24th at the 2017 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki.
“I felt really prepared for this competition,” Craine shared, regarding Nebelhorn. “Every single day of training I was just ready to go and I really wanted to leave for Germany and just skate.”
Her performance was solid, but not flawless. However, the athlete feels that she was able to handle the pressure quite well. It was her Olympic dream, which she has had for eight years, on the line after all.
“I am on film at around 11 saying, ‘I am too young to go to the 2014 Olympics, but you’ll see me at the 2018 Olympics,” Craine recalled. “It didn’t really click then how much work I had to put into it but, I don’t have any regrets at all: it’s all worth it.”
“I wouldn’t trade anything to feel how I feel when I skate,” she continued. “All the preparation is so worth it to me. Just to be able to go to the Olympics and be an Olympian and just fulfil my one accomplishment I wanted to achieve in my lifetime – it means everything to me and I will put everything into it. I can guarantee that I will not rest, and I will put everything into doing my best performance at the Olympics as well.”
The three-time Australian Champion is now looking forward to taking the next steps now that she has qualified. She is relieved that the qualification process is over and can now concentrate on improving technically. She is also working to increase the difficulty of her program with triple-triple combinations.
“It wasn’t the hardest program in the world that I train, but I can guarantee that in PyeongChang it will definitely be a harder program that can compete with Olympic skaters,” she promised.
Craine, who won the senior and junior national title the same year in 2015 and 2016, has all triples in her arsenal and has attempted triple Axels in practice. She also would like to learn a quad.
“I like the Axel jump, so that is possible for me to do and I really like the idea of doing quads,” she revealed. “We need to get past the idea that just men can do quads, because girls can do quads. I think that will be the next thing to train for all of us ladies – I know we can do it.”
The skater was adamant regarding working on her component score.
“To be technically better with more triple-triple combos, more consistent and mentally better with competing is my goal,” said the Slovenia Open silver medalist. “I love trying harder things; skating is really fun and there is always something new that you can try. I would be completely open to saying that I would like to complete a triple Axel next season or the season after – that would be really fun.”
Craine feels that she has become mentally stronger with each competition this season. Nebelhorn Trophy was actually her fourth event following Asian Open Trophy in Hong Kong, Skate Celje in Slovenia and the Nepela Trophy in Bratislava.
“I train these elements every day, I train the programs,” said the teenager. “There are no issues and I just really had to get my head together and just trust my training and I’ve managed to do pretty well on that aspect given the high stakes of Nebelhorn Trophy.”
Craine should be able to use the spot she earned herself, as she said that selection criteria of the Australian Olympic Committee states that after Nebelhorn Trophy, she needed to be ranked 20 world ranking spots higher than the next Australian skater to get the spot automatically. After Nebelhorn Trophy, Craine was ranked 31 in the world, while the next Australian lady, Brooklee Han, was ranked 51. Craine expects to be officially nominated in early November.
The skater has kept her short program to “Dream a Little Dream of Me” for the Olympic year and has returned to Moulin Rouge for her free skating.
“For my free program, I have kind of gone back to my strengths this year with a little bit more intense drama,” Craine explained. “I have chosen solid programs with which I feel comfortable and which bring out the best in me and make me feel as confident as I can. I used this music (Moulin Rouge) in 2012 and I just felt it deserved a better skater than I did in 2012 as I was still little back then. I definitely felt that I had to come back to this music, that it had to be done again and that I think this program makes me feel so confident. I love training it and I love competing it.”
As her Olympic dream is drawing closer which each day now, the bubbly Australian can’t wait for it to happen.
“I want to soak up every single moment because a lot of my other Olympic teammates just soak it all up and enjoy the atmosphere,” she said, smiling. “I don’t think you understand the visions I have about the Opening Ceremony. I just can’t get it out of my head and I’ve just had to go: ‘No! Just get the spot first and then we can focus on the Opening Ceremony and walking onto the ice for the six-minute warm up.'”
“Now, I can dream of that,” Craine concluded. “Now I don’t have to fold it away. Now it’s possible. So that is beyond exciting but, I know, nothing can prepare you for what the Olympic Games will be like, but I just know that it’s going to be amazing. Whatever happens, it is going to be the best experience of my life.”
For Craine, PyeongChang might be just the starting point. “I think I’m a person that gets addicted to these feelings and so I think I’m just going to have to do a couple of them just cause I’m greedy like that,” she added with a smile.
As for now, the skater is just plain excited and motivated for this season, which she feels is happening fast.
“I am loving every second of it and embracing it,” said Craine. “I feel like it is giving me a sense of momentum for the Olympic Season. I have never felt this fit and strong in my life, but my goal is to continuously improve and entertain.”
Following Skate Canada, Craine will return to Australia and is aiming at defending her national title.
“This year, nationals is very special to me,” she revealed. “I will be going for my 10th overall national title if you include my national titles from Juvenile, Novice and Junior.”