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Figure skater Jenna McCorkell's Olympic dream

Some people dream of Olympic glory, but for Northern Ireland's Jenna McCorkell just getting there is a lifetime achievement.

When the Coleraine woman takes to the ice in Vancouver next week she will fulfil the goal she has striven for since the age of seven.

It might have happened four years ago, but a back injury cruelly robbed the seven-times British champion of the chance to compete in Turin.

Now, though, the 23-year-old figure skater is determined to make the most of her first — and possibly last — stab at success during the Winter Games.

And proud parents Craig and Ainsley, both 47, will be there to cheer on their only daughter (and middle child).

“When Jenna was nine years old she was totally convinced she was going to the Olympics,” Mr McCorkell said. “Even then, she knew what she wanted and she never stopped believing.”

The road to Vancouver began at the now defunct rink at the Jet Centre on the banks of the River Bann, near her home town.

When it closed Jenna then made the daily trek to Dundonald Ice Bowl.

After England-based coaching and competition she is now Northern Ireland’s sole representative on the 48-strong GB team.

“The standard is incredibly high and Jenna’s goal is to get into the top 15, but that depends on how she skates on the day and how she copes with the nerves,” the figure skater’s father said.

Jenna will begin her most demanding challenge to date on Tuesday, when she first steps out skating the short programme to Dance Of Death by Franz Liszt.

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Two days later, on February 25, her long programme will be performed to the Voice Of The Violin by Andrea Camilleri.

It is clear Jenna has been working towards both moments all her young life.

“A child needs the talent and then the ambition for ice skating — that’s the combination for success,” Mr McCorkell said.

“Jenna has always had both in abundance. The child must really want it and then the parents must be prepared to support them.”

He added: “The Olympics is the ultimate, and she’s running her programmes clean in practice — she’s in great form now.”

Jenna one day hopes to leave Ninove in Belgium, where she now lives, for Coleraine.

This time she’ll be with her other half, Belgian figure skater Kevin Van der Perren (27), who will also be in action in the Winter Olympics.

“Jenna will skate for at least two more years, possibly for another Olympics,” her father said. “Then Kevin and her hope to have children and Jenna would like to bring them up here.”

In the meantime the immediate concerns of their careers are in sharp focus in Canada.

“Winning Olympic Gold would be an absolute dream and one thing’s for sure — Jenna will give it her best shot,” her father said.

Fans can watch Jenna in action on BBC2 and Eurosport on Tuesday and Thursday (Feb 23 & 25).

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