Olympics 2014 - Kaat van Daele finds excitement, beauty and drama in the ladies short program

February 20, 2014
By Kaat van Daele
Photos © Ludwig Welnicki

Dear Absolute Skating readers,

I am very happy Absolute Skating asked me to write down my opinion about the short program of the ladies! Here's a little information about me, for those who do not know me:

I am Kaat van Daele, the Belgian Champion in figure skating. I have skated at three European Championships and I will represent Belgium at the World Championships in Japan, at the end of March.

Participating in the Olympics is the ultimate dream for every skater, including myself, it's a unique experience. For me it wasn't meant to be, I didn't manage to qualify a spot for Belgium in the ladies, but my teammate Jorik Hendrickx did for the men. He had an amazing Olympic debut, and represented our country brilliantly achieving an amazing 16th place!


First and foremost I'd like to say; what a competition! All elements were present, the excitement, the beauty, the drama, and goose bumps... These are the Olympics!

In the early stages of the competition a few ladies looked pretty tense, which showed itself in some doubtful jumps and elements. At a top competition, like the Olympic Games, one cannot afford any mistakes in the short program. Ladies like Elena Glebova, Natalia Popova, Gabrielle Daleman and So Youn Park experienced this first hand yesterday.

Proof that the level is really high at these Games  is there with the clean program of British Jenna McCorkell. I trained with her daily for years, so I am truly happy she delivered. Only 0,22 points kept her from qualifying for the free program. Being in the top of the figure skating world for years already,  she can be very proud of her achievement!

The first highlight of the competition came, for me, with the skate of the American Polina Edmunds. The energy and joy she radiates, while being only 15 years old, is really a magnificent sight. She has a great future ahead of her!

The absolute surprise of the evening was Nathalie Weinzierl from Germany, who delivered a technically perfect program! She is still lacking a bit in the presentation, but being only 19 years old there is time and room for improvement.  Yet I was totally impressed with her focus on the elements, since she had to skate right after skating legend Yuna Kim. This girl proved she can perform under pressure!

It wasn't really the night of the Japanese girls. To start with Akiko Suzuki, she skated with lots of feeling. The performance part of this beautiful short program was flawless. I am a fan of hers! Unfortunately she has some issues to come through. Her first jump, the triple toe loop, failed purely because of doubts in the moment. The same happened to Kanako Murakami. For me personally, the music she skated too was a tad too overwhelming. I couldn't follow the program that well, but that doesn't mean she isn't a very powerful skater.

Mao Asada's short program broke my heart. She had to skate last, in the final group and even though her choreography was beautiful, none of the jumps worked out. I really admire Mao's perseverance, the risk she takes by doing the triple Axel. Unfortunately this time it wasn't meant to be and I hope with all my heart that she can leave this program behind and can refocus for the free, today.

The American girls had to fight for their placements. I have had the honor to watch Gracie Gold's practice in preparation for the Olympics and even shared some practices with her. She is extraordinary; she works her butt off and strives for perfection in every practice. Together with Frank Caroll they have the perfect team! She fought for every element in this program and can be very proud of her 4th place!

Of course there was great pressure on the Russian girls, with the biggest load on Yulia Lipnitskaia.   After the European Championships in Budapest, where she won, the expectations were extremely high.  At her 15 years of age, she looks so very young and fragile. I think she put a lot of pressure on herself to do well for her country and expected a blockbuster performance like in Budapest, which unfortunately did not happen, as she fell on her triple flip. But I am sure that she will not lose courage and will start at the free program mentally a lot stronger. Go Yulia!

I admire the power in Adelina Sotnikova's jumps a lot. She is in a great place and with her beautiful spins and powerful jumps I hope she will display the same amount of confidence as she did in the short. In the end she is also still very young, only 17 and aims to keep her second place and a medal for Russia!

The battle between Gold, Silver and Bronze is open!

The absolute highlights of the day were for me without any doubts the programs of 'the Queen' Yuna Kim and 'the Angel on Ice' Carolina Kostner!

Yuna Kim, defending her title here, truly honored her nickname 'Figure Skating Queen'. Her triple Lutz - triple toe loop combination was downright perfect! Skating to the music of Send in the Clowns she completely captivated me with her program.

But the gracefulness, elegance, beauty and simplicity of Carolina Kostner's Ave Maria did not only give me goose bumps but also brought tears to my eyes. For me she was the unequivocal winner of the evening! I am training in Oberstdorf for the World Championships and I've had the honor to be practicing on the same ice with her all season. I admire her immensely. Every day again she inspired and enthused me. She is in top shape and at these Olympic Games I am one of her biggest fans. She floats over the ice, so lightly, so gracefully. There is just one angel on the ice and it's Carolina Kostner!

Every skater who skated her short program yesterday worked and lived towards this the past four years. The elegance of Viktoria Helgesson, the experience of Jenna McCorkell, the fragility of Anne Line Gjersem, the sex appeal of Kaetlyn Osmond, the beauty of Valentina Marchei, the sentiment of Akiko Suzuki, the energy of Polina Edmunds, the confidence of Ashley Wagner, the fighting spirit of Gracie Gold, the gracefulness of Carolina Kostner, the strength of Adelina Sotnikova, the determination of Yuna Kim... every one of them is unique, but all of them share the same passion and dream for this magnificent sport! They are all beautiful people who worked extremely hard to be skating in Sochi today.  So I want to wish every one of them all the luck in the world for this exciting final of the Olympic Games!

To you, the fans: sit back, relax, and enjoy! ...... if you can.


Olympic photos courtesy of Ludwig Welnicki, for more photos, check out his site here!


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