Olympic figure-skater Kailani Craine on growing up in regional NSW and why she loves returning home.
KAILANI CRAINE Olympic figure-skater
THE ATHLETE SHARES HER LOVE OF FIGURE-SKATING AND WHAT SHE MISSES ABOUT HER CHILDHOOD HOME OF NEWCASTLE WHEN SHE’S AWAY.
KAILANI CRAINE WAS eight years old when she went to a friend’s birthday party at the local ice rink in Newcastle. She fell in love with figure-skating and her desire to improve has led to national and international success including her debut in February at South Korea’s Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. “Being on the ice makes me feel very free, it’s the best feeling in the world — like you’re flying and you can portray any emotion,” the 20-year-old explains. There’s the technical side to it as well and I have a lot of respect for the process and technical ability. But there’s also this passionate side and I like to see someone really perform and make you feel different emotions — that’s what I love about it.” Born in 1998, Kailani grew up in the Newcastle suburb of Waratah with her mother Katrina who works in pharmacy (when she’s not travelling with Kailani) and father Stephen, a property valuer. Kailani won her first junior title in Australia in 2012 and by 2014 she became the Australian Ladies Figure Skating Champion. One of her career highlights was winning gold at the 2017 Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, making her the first place Olympic qualifier for the 2018 winter Olympics ladies event. “I had always wanted to go the Olympics and to be able to achieve that was crazy. The Nebelhorn Trophy was our Olympic qualifier and it was an emotional competition for me. When it finally happened I just cried — I’m not usually one to show emotion after I’ve skated well but this time I just broke down on the ice and let all the emotions fly out.” Kailani spends much of the year training in Los Angeles and competing internationally. At the moment she is working on different programs as well as improving her technical strength. “This is the time where you expand your horizons and get out of your comfort zone,” she says. However, the athlete always enjoys returning to Newcastle . “I love coming home and feel like it’s such a privilege. There are lots of little things that I miss like the trees and we have spectacular beaches here in Australia and the sky is a different colour blue. When I come back to Newcastle it’s so chilled and fresh — it’s my favourite place to be. I spent a lot of time at home after the Olympics and world championships so I’m really taking the time to just be at home and relax so I can amp myself up for the next four years leading into Beijing.” Long-term, Kailani hopes to use her experience to help others. “I just want to get better at figure-skating so I can help people here in the sport. It really is the same all over the world — you just have to put in the time and the effort — you can do anything in any place in the world if you want it enough. If you want to work for it you can find a way.” > Follow Kailani on Instagram @kailanicraine
Kailani Craine after being named as part of the Australian Winter Olympic team in 2017. FACING PAGE A young Kailani (centre) at a competition.
“I GREW UP IN WARATAH , which was close to school and only 15 minutes from the ice rink. I had the best upbringing I could ask for and it was quite a normal childhood before I started figure-skating and going on trips away for that. I have a lovely family and I’m glad I can still come home and spend a lot of time with them. We are so close and like best friends. My parents are really cool people and fun to be around and they have always been there for me. We always went camping and to the beach and had picnics — that was our thing, and my grandparents would come along as well. We went to different campsites and Dad loves to fish so it was convenient for everyone. That’s what I remember most; lots of camping trips and family bonding time. When I started figure-skating a little bit more I couldn’t go away as much as I had to train and didn’t have much time off. I was eight when I went to a friend’s birthday party at an ice rink. I got a pretty purple dress with a black skirt — I remember that and the dresses kind of attracted me to the sport! I started doing lessons at the ice rink and eventually went to my first competition and had quite a good time. Then I started doing little competitions and it progressed to a state, national and now an international and Olympic level. I didn’t go into the sport thinking I was going to compete; I genuinely had a good time skating and that’s what drove me. Then I got addicted to competing and winning and here I am today. My parents were the ones that had to get up and drive me to the rink at 5am. They have always supported me throughout everything. My parents gave up a lot for me to go overseas and train. My mum sometimes comes with me and they both continue to support me now. I went to St Francis Xavier’s College for high school. I like doing well at things and I actually enjoyed the learning process but it was hard doing schoolwork overseas, especially in a different training time. Here in Australia our training fits around school with morning and afternoon sessions, whereas overseas it was during the day so it was hard for me to mimic the regular school schedule and keep up with my work. But I got through it and I am happy I didn’t do home schooling and that I did come back and attend classes. I have a lot of great memories growing up around the ice-skating community; there were a lot of skaters my age. Now it’s so cute watching all the little kids skating with their friends. It reminds me of how I grew up, it was the best thing and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I had fun with what I was doing as a kid and I think I’m a really competitive person. I got addicted to doing well and getting better. When I started competing in state and national competitions, I looked up to other skaters — the world competitors — and I really wanted to be like them. When I watched the athletes at the 2010 Olympics, I knew that’s what I wanted to do and that’s what my goal was. I wasn’t old enough for the 2014 Olympics so it had to be 2018. I put everything into that and that’s what I was driving towards. It was a really hard thing to achieve and I’m proud of myself for getting there. My family taught me that if I work really hard in training, it doesn’t really matter what happens on competition day because there will be some unlucky days, but they will always be there to pick me up if I don’t have my best skate. That really helped me and they made it really fun for me; in training they always had different ways to keep everything interesting and fresh, and that’s why I have always loved skating and why I will continue to love it. One day when I start coaching I want to put that same approach into practice. I think that is really the key to success: having fun and loving what you do every day because then you’ll never get sick of it.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT Kailani with her parents Katrina and Stephen; a proud Katrina showing off her daughter’s medal; Kailani on a family trip in Europe in 2012.