Olympic fig­ure-skater Kailani Craine on grow­ing up in re­gional NSW and why she loves re­turn­ing home.

KAILANI CRAINE Olympic fig­ure-skater



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.

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