Senior Ladies skater and Team Riedell member Brooklee Han has made ripples in Australian and international competitive skating since placing in the Nebelhorn Trophy in 2013. In the years that followed, she’d go on to take home the Volvo Open Cup, place first in the Australian Figure Skating Championships, represent Australia in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and more. Even with her sharp track record, Brooklee continues to carve her future in skating, one competition at a time. We caught up with Brooklee herself to talk Olympics, her custom Riedell 1375 Gold Star boots, ice cream, school, skating advice and more.
When did you start figure skating?
I started skating a few months before my fifth birthday. I was very fortunate that as a child my parents exposed me to many different sports and arts. My parents are both equestrians, so naturally, I rode horses, but they also brought me to see the Boston Pops, the ballet and Scott Hamilton’s Stars on Ice. I immediately fell in love with the skaters’ costumes, movements and athletic ability and promptly told my parents that was what I wanted to do.
What kept you coming back or what do you love about skating?
There are a lot of things I love about skating! I love the feeling of smoothly gliding across a fresh sheet of ice. I love moving to music and getting to perform in front of and connecting with an audience. And I love that I have the chance to push myself both mentally and physically every day.
What is your favorite memory of skating when you were younger?
I honestly don’t have a ton of skating memories from when I was little, but one of my favorite memories was landing my first double axel. I had been training with Serhii Vaypan, who is my current coach, for a little over a year. When I had started with him all I could land was a very bad single axel and a very bad double salchow. My friend Elizabeth and I were his first full time students after he had moved to Connecticut.
On the ice with Serhii was and still is always all business all the time. Elizabeth and I were on the last session of the day and I was in a lesson with Serhii. After months of trying I found myself upright and on one foot after a double axel. Elizabeth saw it and came over to Serhii and asked if she could give me a hug as she knew how hard I had been working to try and get my double axel. Of course he said yes and we all had a big group hug in the middle of the ice.
Last year you had a good year on the ice. What was your favorite memory from last season?
Last season was a bit up and down, but I definitely learned a lot and am excited to put some of my new knowledge to use in the upcoming 2016-2017 season. I have two favorite memories from last season. The first would be my short program at Four Continents. Despite skating clean short programs nearly every day in practice, I had yet to land my triple flip in the short program at a competition. At Four Continents, not only did I land my triple flip, but I also skated a clean program and got a season’s best score.
My other favorite memory is from the very beginning of the season. The first international competition I did this season was the US International Classic in Salt Lake City, Utah. The weekend before Salt Lake I competed in a small club competition with my long program to just get out and compete before the international season began. My mom was holding my skates while I warmed up off the ice, as Serhii had a lot of other kids competing right before me. She looked at my boots and noticed that there was a crack in the heel of the right boot — my right leg is my landing leg. My mom decided to tell Serhii so that he could be aware of the situation. Serhii and my mom decided not to tell me so that I would not worry, but he could stop me if need be. My program was a little bit wobbly, but it was just what we had been looking for to start my season.
When I got off the ice they showed me my boot and I was shocked! It was such a fluky thing and it was something I never thought would happen. Luckily, my mom had ordered me a new pair of boots from Riedell a few weeks earlier and they had arrived that Thursday. The club competition was on Saturday, on Sunday I heat molded the new boots and Serhii mounted the blades, on Monday I started in the new boots, on Wednesday we left for Salt Lake City and on Friday I competed a clean short program in my five-day-old boots!
I still am amazed at what I did, but I am so glad that Riedell takes such good care of me and that my boots always fit perfectly, so it never takes me too long to break in a new pair. However, three days was definitely a bit tight!
Is there anything that you can share with us about your plans/goals/aspirations for next season?
This season my two main goals are to successfully integrate and compete more difficult jump combinations. I also want to improve my performance quality and speed across the ice. This past season was also the first time I had missed the World Championships, so I really want to be back at Worlds in 2017, especially since it is the first Olympic qualifier.
What is your favorite on ice exercise or skill to practice?
I really like to work on spins. It is a lot of fun try and come up with new positions and combinations. In a weird way I even look forward to seeing if any of the spin rules have changed each season as I find it a lot of fun to try and come up with three level four spins that all fit into the new rules.
What is your least favorite on ice exercise or skill to practice?
I think my least favorite thing would be that first long program run-through of the season. Normally it has been a couple months since my last full run-through and no matter how much cardio training I have done off the ice I know that nothing trains me better for running programs than actually running programs, so I know that it is going to be tough.
It is definitely more of a mental barrier than a physical one. It is like ripping off the Band-Aid – you just have to do it. But once I do the first one I feel great because I have proven to myself that I can do it.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated when life is busy or you are stuck in a training rut?
When I get stuck in a training rut, I try my best to not become too discouraged by focusing on my overall goals and what I hope to eventually achieve. I also write down positive things from my training sessions so that I can show myself that even though it may feel like my session wasn’t that great, there were still things that went well.
Do you have an intensive off ice training plan that you follow? Can you share it?
I firmly believe that off ice training is just as important as on ice training. Three to four days a week I work out in the gym focusing on cardio, agility, and core strength. Two days a week I work off the ice with my coach, Serhii, on cardio, jump technique, agility and anything he feels needs extra attention and once a week I do ballet.
You are in school and studying hard – tell us about your academic goals.
I just finished up my sophomore year at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. I am studying German and international relations. I plan on finishing my Bachelor’s degree and then eventually going onto graduate school. I am not sure what I would like to study in grad school, but at the moment I am thinking about international law. I eventually aspire to becoming either a journalist or working for the International Olympic Committee or the ISU.
What can we find you doing in your down time from training and school?
When I am not training or doing school work I enjoy reading, painting pottery with my best friend Devon, playing my violin, playing with our dog, Willa, and my cat, Louis, and riding my pony, Fatboy.
What is your favorite music to listen to? What books have you read lately?
I enjoy a wide variety of music. Being a violinist I really enjoy classical violin pieces. In the rink we normally listen to “Top 40” radio stations and I like a lot of those songs and artists, such as Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Train and Echosmith but I also like Norah Jones, Queen, Michael Jackson, Elton John, James Taylor, Carole King, The Beach Boys, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.
Having just finished my sophomore year, I haven’t gotten to read anything for fun in quite a while, but this semester I read a lot of books for classes that I really enjoyed. A few of my favorites are The Best American Essay 2015 edited by Ariel Levy, The Bridge of the Golden Horn by Emine Sevgi Ozdamer, and Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick. Over the summer I am hoping to read quite a few books including The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, War Brides by Helen Bryan and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
What is your favorite treat to eat?
I LOVE ice cream! I am a fan of anything with peanut butter and chocolate, but I have a soft spot for Ben & Jerry’s.
Competitive skating has taken you all over– what was your favorite place to compete and why?
I have two favorite places to compete. The first is Japan, because the fans there are so supportive and welcoming. The events there are so well organized and everything is taken care of for the athletes. My other favorite place is Oberstdorf, Germany. There are so many things I love about Oberstdorf. Some of my most favorite skating memories have occurred there, the ice is always prefect, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous, the fans are so appreciative and knowledgeable, and the food is incredible. I LOVE OBERSTDORF!
What country or city do you want to visit that you haven’t been to yet?
I have always wanted to go to Greece. When I was little I read a book that was set on the island of Santorini and since then I have always wanted to go. I also would love to go to Spain. Serhii coaches a boy in the summer who comes over from Barcelona and they have invited me to come over. I am definitely planning on taking them up on that offer someday! I also have always wanted to go to St. Petersburg and Moscow. I have seen so many photos of both cities and they look absolutely breathtaking.
What do you like best about your Riedell boots?
It is hard to pick one thing I like best about my Riedell boots! Since my very first pair of skates I have always worn Riedell. They fit my feet perfectly. I have briefly tried two other brands (and by briefly I mean skated in one pair for all of 20 minutes and the other brand of boots didn’t even make it to putting a blade on— I just did not like them). I love the fact that I can customize the support of my Riedells. I have a child size foot and need way more support to do triples than a child’s boot offers, so I love the fact that I can add more support and padding where I need it.
I also love that I have the option to make my boots all leather. A lot of boot makers have stopped making leather boots, but Riedell still does. My feet do not react well to synthetic skates and I love the fact that I can get an all-natural leather boot. I also love the cut of my Riedells. They do a great job stabilizing my feet and ankles and they leave me with no doubt that I will have all the support I need when I take off for or land a jump. Finally, I love how helpful and supportive everyone at Riedell is! They are a wonderful part of my competitive team.
How was the break in process for your new skates?
At the end of the 2015-2016 season I put on my new boots. It was a huge relief to not have to leave for an international competition in three days, so to begin with the process was already less stressful. I normally heat mold my boots twice because I find it makes the break in process go even smoother. I usually spend the first half hour to an hour just skating and getting used to having a stiff boot again and then by the end of the day I am doing most, if not all, of my triple jumps.
What is a piece of advice that your coach gave you and has always stuck with you?
Before I go out to my starting pose at a competition my coach, Serhii, always tells me to enjoy the performance and I think that is something that is really important to remember. As international athletes we train day in and day out. We’re very focused on our goals and it can be easy to lose sight of why we started skating in the first place.
At a competition it is not time to train, but to show off all your hard work. Instead of going out there and focusing the whole time on placements and scores, Serhii reminds me to stay in the moment and enjoy this opportunity I have to do what I love and perform for an audience.
What skater or skaters did you look up to when you were a beginning skater?
There are so many skaters that I have looked up to throughout my skating career. I love Alexei Urmanov and Alexei Yagudin for their incredible jumps and showmanship. I really enjoy watching Scott Hamilton, Kurt Browning and Ryan Bradley because they are so engaging and really know how to work an audience. But, some of my all around favorite skaters include Carolina Kostner, Shizuka Arakawa, Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Akiko Suzuki. I am truly an avid fan of figure skating.
What advice can you give to skaters out there?
Figure skating is an extremely difficult sport, but a lot of fun as well. Skating teaches you so much for life beyond the ice. If you truly love it then no matter what, it does not matter how far you get or how much you achieve. The most important part of skating and anything you do is that you love it and enjoy it because if you love what you are doing then you will never have to work a day in your life.
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