Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Jenna’s winter wonderland

Jenna McCorkell competes in her first Winter Olympics in February but either side of it she will be in action at the European Championships next month and the Worlds in March

Jenna McCorkell is dreaming of two things — Olympic glory and opening an ice rink in her native Northern Ireland.

The 23-year-old figure skater from Coleraine will compete in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February and would love other young hopefuls from the province to get the chance to do likewise in the future.

“When I retire, which hopefully is still some way off, I would love to open my own ice rink in Northern Ireland, preferably somewhere in the north west,” she said. “The area taking in the likes of Coleraine, Londonderry, Limavady, Portrush, Portstewart, Ballymoney has huge potential and I would love to go back home and coach some day,” said Jenna, who aims to go from ‘Chiller’ to thriller in the space of a few short weeks.

Jenna is currently appearing in ‘Chiller’, an ice dance version of the late Michael Jackson’s life.

Then she will turn her attention towards the Winter Olympics, and thrilling the crowds in Canada.

And February’s Olympics will mean more to Jenna than to many of the competitors — that’s because she missed the Turin Games four years ago due to a back injury.

“I was devastated when I realised I was going to miss out on the last Olympics. Going to the Games is something you dream about.

“So I’m hoping to stay injury-free this time around.

“The Winter Olympics are getting closer and it’s very exciting.

“I’m focusing on my own performance and my aim is simply to skate as well as I possibly can. If I do that I will be happy.

“If I’m at my best I should be in the top 15 and beyond that, who knows?” she said.

Next up for Jenna are the European Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, starting on January 18.

“Things are hectic at the moment. I seem to be travelling to a different country every week.

“The competition at the Europeans will be stiff but I feel I can do well.

“The Europeans are just before the Olympics. I only have something like 10 days after the Europeans until I head off to the Olympics.

“I’m pleased about that because I tend to skate better without too much of a gap between events. Competing keeps you focused and that brings the best out of you.

“Hopefully the Europeans can really kick start the year for me and put me in good stead for the Olympics,” she said.

Jenna is due back from the Olympics at the beginning of March and will then turn her attention to the World Championships, which begin in Turin on March 22.

“It promises to be quite a year,” she admitted.

And Jenna is relishing her current role in ‘Chiller’.

“I was always a Michael Jackson fan and some of the musical numbers are just crazy. It’s all just so much fun.

“It’s a great group of people to work with. When you’re competing, you don’t really get to mix with the other skaters,” she added.

Jenna recently became British champion for the seventh time in eight years — missing one title through the same injury that robbed her of an Olympic place — something that surprises her.

“I don’t feel as if I have been skating long enough to be British champion seven times,” she smiled.

Jenna began skating as a seven-year-old in Coleraine then made the long daily trek from the north coast to Dundonald Icebowl after the local rink closed.

After that, she moved to England for coaching and competition. Jenna is bang on form and followed up her British title with a bronze medal at the NRW Trophy, a major international event in Dortmund earlier this month — her husband, the Belgian skater Kevin Van Der Perren, taking bronze in the men’s event.

That result was the highlight of Jenna’s season to date.

And what a season it could turn out to be.

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