Kailani Craine on her love of ice skating, making it to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and always being asked about Tonya Harding. By Richard Cooke.


Ice queen: Kailani Craine, 19, figure skater

Being a figure skater is the best job in the world. I watched the Olympics and thought, “That’s what I want to do.” It was really random how it happened. I didn’t even think about it, I just did it. We were just going to the rink for one session, and now I’m here and I’m competing a lot. I really didn’t think I would be competitive in the sport at all. I mean, I was just doing it for fun. 

I was really bored one day so I just went to the ice rink. From there I decided to take up private lessons. I didn’t do the whole competing thing. It was more social fun. And then I started low-level competitions. I guess it just progressed from there. That’s a good thing, because I wasn’t being pushed to compete. No one in my family is an ice skater. It was a really fun process and it still is. 

I think that’s the best thing about figure skating – you can really let your personality shine through. It’s really beautiful but also really athletic. There are all different types of skaters, and so many different ways you can skate. It can be powerful or balletic. 

We get given two scores. One is the technical element score, which is basically what we’re doing in the routine. Our jumps, our spins, our sets. And then we have our second mark, which is called the program component, and one of the factors in that is presentation. Plus skating skill and transitions and interpretation.

That means the sport is subjective. It can really go in your favour, or sometimes, it’s just not your day. Sometimes a person might not like the routine that you do. I’m more of a dynamic skater, whereas someone else might be a more balletic skater. So it really comes down to opinion, and that’s okay.

I train around four hours a day on the ice. Plus time in the gym. People might not recognise how much effort goes into everything that you’re doing. Especially with the world’s top skaters – they’re making things look so easy, but it’s really not that easy. Put it all together in a package and it’s incredibly hard. 

When you’re learning a new element, it can feel like forever. The amount of falls, especially in the younger levels when they don’t get the feeling of the jump yet … I remember especially the double axel being the hardest to learn. It was a different way of rotating. And I can just remember the thousands of bruises I had over that time period. It was all worth it, because now they’re easy.

Whenever I’m talking to a stranger, they’ll mention Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. A lot of people associate figure skating with that big story, you know, that big drama. Of course with figure skating a lot of time and money goes into it and there’s a lot of emotion. Especially because it’s a lot of young girls. We’re all really competitive, but I feel that’s more an issue in the younger levels. Senior skaters now are all friends.

I love I, Tonya. It really hit it on the head. They must have done a lot of research – not just the story but on the sport as well. They were really accurate on a lot of things and how, especially back in that day, it was pretty much identical what they did with the routines and the costumes, and just the way that they skated.

Everyone wants to go to the Olympics. It’s pretty much the same thing as Worlds, the same kind of competition, but the Olympics is just so prestigious. Once every four years. The rings. The village. There are so many different aspects to the Olympics that people just want to experience. It sucks because not that many people do get to experience that, a lot of people miss out, and it’s just … It’s heartbreaking for a lot of people.

But I do get to go to the Olympics, and I’m so excited, I’m so happy. It’s literally the only thing I’ve ever wanted in my life.


This week’s highlights…

• Winter Olympics: PyeongChang 2018

Until February 25, Pyeongchang, South Korea

Golf: Women’s Australian Open

Until Sunday, Kooyonga Golf Club, Adelaide

• Athletics: Australian Championships

Until Sunday, Carrara Stadium, Gold Coast

• Horseracing: Black Caviar, The Great Horse Raceday

Saturday, 1st race 12.30pm (AEDT), Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne


Saturday, 4.10pm (AEDT), Allianz Stadium, Sydney

• Soccer: W-League grand final – Sydney FC v Melbourne City

Sunday, 5pm (AEDT), Allianz Stadium, Sydney

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 17, 2018 as "Ice queen".

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Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.

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