In 2000, Jennifer Kirk was the World Junior Champion. Two years later, she was the Four Continents Champion. She competed in three World Championships and was also a U.S. and Skate Canada medallist. After losing her mother and fighting a difficult battle with eating disorders, Jennifer returned to the sport, showing her true passion for it through The Skating Lesson, a new YouTube site that showcases the sport's very best and shares their real stories. A fabulous skater and a fascinating person - here is my interview with Jennifer:
Q: I'd like to start by saying I'm a huge fan! You're hilarious and I always just loved your skating. Why do you think having a sense of humour about yourself and the sport is so important?
A: Thank you, Ryan! I didn't know I was hilarious! Haha! I think it's important to have a sense of humour about yourself because life is hard yet can also be very, very funny. We've all had experiences where we've looked back on a situation that at the time was miserable but one we can now laugh at. I think it's always important to find the humour in everything because it makes life so much more enjoyable. It's also important to find the humour in yourself; we should never take ourselves too seriously.
Q: What is your favourite memory of competitive skating and what was your favourite program that you skated?
A: My favourite memory of competitive skating is my Junior Worlds long program in 2000. There was a moment in the program, right after I landed my triple flip and the music changed to the slow section, where I just knew I was going to skate a clean program. It was as if my body totally relaxed, and I felt so in control and present for the rest of the program. It didn't matter what place I ended up at that moment; all I could think about was how much I loved skating and performing and how lucky I felt to be doing what I loved.
Q: What's the most rewarding part of your involvement in the sport today?
A: I am really enjoying the podcast/interview series that I recently started with Dave Lease called The Skating Lesson. I love talking to influential figures from the sport and learning about the lessons they learned during their time in skating. I've developed such respect for our interviewees and the challenges each of them have overcome. I've also been amazed at their willingness to speak so honestly in the effort to help others. It's been a blast.
Q: Who, of the current top skaters in the world, do you really think people need to watch out for? Who's the underdog that has the potential to make it big?
A: I would watch out for Alex Johnson. He recently won the Challenge Cup and had a fantastic skate in his long program at U.S. Nationals. I'm a huge fan of his skating and see him as the underdog next season.
Q: As a skater, you got to work with some of the world's best coaches and choreographers. How important is good coaching and choreography to a skaters ultimate success?
A: Good coaching and choreography is paramount to a skater's success. Probably the most important element to it is finding a coach and a choreographer who really understands you as an athlete and a person. Just like any good relationship, you need to have that connection. It's also really important I've learned to have good communication and the ability to speak up about how you feel and what you like and dislike as an athlete. Skaters need to feel that they can go to their coaches and voice their opinions. Likewise, a good choreographer who is willing to take input from the skater is vital. It needs to be a collaborative effort.
Q: What is the most overused piece of music in figure skating?
A: Ha! It's a tie: "Carmen" and "Swan Lake."
Q: What do you think could be improved with the new judging system? Do you miss the 6.0 system?
A: I do miss the 6.0 system, but I also think aspects of the new system are really beneficial to the sport. That said, I worry that the new system doesn't allow enough of a skater's personality to be revealed during a performance. Skating has become somewhat generic. Skaters are all trying to do the same moves in order to maximize points. I miss seeing a skater hold a spiral for a good 20 seconds at the end of their program like Nancy Kerrigan or a spread eagle the length of the ice like Paul Wylie. Today, skaters' programs have to be jam-packed with tricks, and the personality of the skater really suffers because of it.
Q: Who's your skating idol? Who's one skater you love that not many people may know about?
A: Growing up, I loved Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan. I still watch YouTube videos of them whenever I'm missing skating! I also really loved Nathalie Krieg. She was a Swiss skater with fantastic spins.
Q: Who's the nicest skater out there?
A: It's funny, the majority of skaters are incredibly nice. I've rarely, if ever, met a skater with whom I didn't connect or find pleasing on some level. I was always touched during my last year touring with Champions On Ice that Rudy Galindo would come out and stand by the curtain every night to watch me perform. I admired him so much growing up, so to see him take the time to watch me perform always stuck with me. I also found Nicole Bobek to be someone who is very kind.
Q: What are your goals these days and where do you see yourself in five years?
A: Dave and I are having so much fun with The Skating Lesson. We have plans to turn it into a website where we'll cover as many skating events as possible--at the local level to international events--and provide a place where skaters and fans can discuss and exchange information about the sport. We also want to continue with our interviews and develop a section on the site where skaters can learn from experts and former champions through interviews and information gained from these influential figures. The sport has lost some of its television coverage and mass appeal, and Dave and I want to help bring that back.
Q: What are your thoughts on professional figure skating? It was MASSIVE in the 1990's and professional figure skating competitions are few and far between these days. Would you compete if they made a resurgance?
A: I was just talking to a friend about this today! I would love to come back to do shows at some point. Unfortunately, because skating is not on television as much these days, the interest in the sport has dwindled. I don't think the new judging system has helped the sport's popularity as well. It's sad, because the talent and the personalities are still there; they just need to be seen and embraced. That is a goal Dave and I have with The Skating Lesson: To showcase the great personalities of the sport.
Q: What's your favourite movie and why?
A: I have so many favourites, but if I had to pick just one, I'd probably say "Almost Famous." I love Kate Hudson, and it's a movie to which I really connect.
Q: When all is said and done, when you look back on your experience as a competitive skater, how you do you think it has shaped the person you are today?
A: Skating taught me so much about myself. In a way, the sport has shown me what I'm made of. As an athlete, you have to constantly push yourself beyond your limits and overcome physical and mental pain. Skating taught me to overcome adversity and to never take a victory or a defeat too seriously. I am constantly finding ways to use the lessons I learned during my skating career to help with my life off the ice and to help others. When I look back at my time as a skater, I see it as such a gift and will forever be grateful to the sport that has given me so much.
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