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Australia's Han plans to savor Sochi experience

Musical skater aims to produce solid programs, remain strict with herself
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Australia's Brooklee Han has a special appreciation for Russian art, music and cuisine. -Getty Images

Australian figure skater Brooklee Han is another representative of a country, along with recently interviewed Brazil's Isadora Williams, which is rarely associated with figure skating.

However, Han will also take part in the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi after finishing in fifth place at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy, the final qualifying competition for the coming Olympics. As a result of her placement, Australia received one of the six remaining spots.

The 18-year-old dazzled the Nebelhorn crowd in Oberstdorf, Germany, with her musicality. One of the reasons for this may be the fact that, in addition to skating, Han also has played the violin since she was 5 years old.

But, in the arsenal of this talented athlete, there is also solid technique, which she is improving from year to year. Interesting fact: At Nebelhorn, Han posted the third-highest technical element score (TES) in the free skate (51.62), higher than those of better-ranked Miki Ando of Japan (48.07) and Ashley Cain of the U.S. (51.51).

Icenetwork talked with the Australian skater about booking her Olympic ticket, developing figure skating in her country and her favorite Russian things.

Icenetwork: Brooklee, you impressed the audience at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy by not only earning the Olympic spot for your country but also by finishing fifth overall. How do you feel about your recent achievements?

Han: Going into Nebelhorn Trophy, my ultimate goal was securing the Olympic quota spot for Australia. I am very pleased and proud to have reached this goal and to have achieved it with two solid performances. 

Icenetwork: Australian figure skating has been present at the Winter Olympics since 1952. What does winning the Olympic spot mean to you?   

Han: Prior to Nebelhorn Trophy, Australia had no spots for the 2014 Olympics, and we came away with spots in ladies, men's and ice dance. This is only the second time Australia has had Olympic spots in three different disciplines. It is great to see this tradition carried on, and I am very proud to have played a role in our success. 

Icenetwork: According to the rules of your federation, the skater who earns the spot will be the one representing Australia at the Olympic Winter Games. Is this so? 

Han: The Australian Olympic Committee and Ice Skating Australia, my federation, policy states that whoever secured the spot at Nebelhorn Trophy gets the Olympic spot. In theory, this does mean that anyone could have gone to Nebelhorn Trophy to secure the spot. However, another policy stated that whoever had the highest total score from various international events would get to go. As I had the highest total score, I was the skater chosen to go.

Icenetwork: And what will your goals be at the Australian championships this December? Will it be something like last pre-Olympic training or does this event have special meaning for you?   

Han: This year's Australian nationals will be held in my home state of Victoria and at my home rink, Medibank Icehouse in Melbourne. No matter where you are from, skating in front of a home crowd is always very special and meaningful. At this event, I hope to put out two solid programs and perform the way I do in practice.

Icenetwork: You also competed in the Junior Grand Prix Series this season. Was it kind of a rehearsal for Nebelhorn?   

Han: The Junior Grand Prix events this season were in some ways a practice for Nebelhorn, as they were a chance for me to get the programs out in front of international judges and officials. However, my junior long is a bit different from my senior long, so Nebelhorn was still the first time I really competed my new senior free this season.

Icenetwork: You have two very nice and lyrical programs which suit you very well. Do they show your inner world and state?   

Han: First of all, thank you very much. I have played the violin since I was 5 years old and I guess I am drawn to expressive and lyrical music because of this. I really love both my programs this season, and I truly enjoy performing them in front of an audience. Both programs are story-based, which makes it easier for me to interpret and express the music.

My coach, Serhii Vaypan, is also my choreographer, and he does a great job creating programs that suit my skating style. Selecting music is always a very long and tiring process, and it is a true collaboration between Serhii, myself and my mom.

Icenetwork: As I understand, at Nebelhorn, you were very upset after just one mistake in the short and one in the free skate, although you've added an additional jump to your other combo, so you fought to the very end. Are you always so strict with yourself?   

Han: I was a bit disappointed with myself after the fall in the short and the pop in the long. Prior to Nebelhorn, I had been training very well, so I knew that I could skate my programs clean. I had really wanted to put out two clean performances, so I was not pleased with the mistakes. However, I did continue fighting and still managed to put out two solid programs.

Icenetwork: Modern ladies figure skating is becoming more and more difficult, and competing at a high level is a complex thing. What do you think about this aspect?

Han: Ladies figure skating has really progressed over the past few seasons. So many more skaters are trying more advanced elements, such as the triple-triple. In some ways, this is good for the sport because it is pushing us as athletes to push ourselves and advance, but in other ways, it is not so good as it can take away from the artistic performance element of the sport.

Icenetwork: You live and train in the United States, but could you tell us a few things about the development of figure skating in the country you're representing?  

Han: Australian figure skating has quite a long history, with the first ice rink being built in Adelaide (my father's home town) in 1904. In 1931, the National Ice Skating Association of Australia, today known as Ice Skating Australia, was formed, and the organization joined the ISU (International Skating Union) in 1932.

1947 marked the first time an Australian competed in the ISU World Championships, and Australia has been represented at the world championships continuously since 1972. As the only skater from Australia to get qualifying scores, I was the only Australian who was eligible to compete at the 2013 World Championships. My participation in the event this past season ensured that this tradition was carried on.

In the past few decades, Australian figure skating has started to gain more support, and I really hope to see it continue to grow within the country. 

Icenetwork: What do you expect from yourself at Sochi Olympics?   

Han: In Sochi, I really want to just enjoy the whole Olympic experience, from walking in the Opening Ceremony to competing on Olympic ice. I hope to skate like I do in practice and put out two solid programs. 

Icenetwork: As the Olympics will be held in a Russian city, could you tell us your five favorite things related with Russia? 

Han: First thing is Matryoshka dolls: They are a universally recognizable symbol of Russia, and the detail on them is so incredible. 

Next thing is Pelmeni: The dumplings are a classic Russian food, and they are so good! 

Third: Music and composers. Russia has produced some amazing composers, such as Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. 

Fourth: Architecture. Russian architecture is very ornate and beautiful. One of my favorite examples is St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. 

Fifth: Sport, dance and art. Russians have such a great appreciation for their artists and sports greats. I admire the dedication and support Russian people show to their dancers, artists and athletes. I am really looking foreword to performing in front of the Russian audience.

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