The new hope of Belgium – Ruben Blommaert

By Mireille Geurts & Titia Tolsma
Photos by Emjo, Joy & Titia

 

We all know Kevin van der Perren, Belgium’s best male skater ever, but he’s not the only skater. Novice champion Ruben Blommaert is working very hard to follow in Kevin’s foot steps and this upcoming season he will be moving up into the junior ranks. The now 14 year old has had the opportunity to skate in one of Europe’s biggest figure skating shows “The Proximus Stars on Ice” twice! Already in 2004 we had a talk with him about his background and how he got started in skating <<read it here>>. Last year we had the chance to catch up on how he was doing, and we recently met him again when we attended and reported on <<Kevin’s own show>>.

Having spotted and recognized us it was he who approached us halfway through practice, sitting down with us and chatting a bit about both skating and non-skating stuff, giving us enough anecdotes and background information to conduct another interview, an idea he liked.
So we went to work and in between practices, shows and other activities, Ruben found some time to talk to us. While his mom patiently waited for him, we got started by asking him about participating in the Antwerp shows.

“I really enjoyed it! It was a great experience for me to skate in such a big show with all these great athletes. I even got the chance to collect some autographs, from Ilia Kulik and a few others. It was the first time I skated in such a big show and that was very special to me.
I learned a lot here. When I’m on the ice with good skaters like the Stars on Ice cast, my coach always says: ‘Look, do you see them do this or that? Watch carefully and try to do the same.’ That way I learn several things, like jump take offs.”

Speaking of Ruben’s mother, we caught up with her too. She was always around, waiting in the ice cold arena and welcomed some company. She shared with us the cute story about asking the IMG to arrange a special hot drink for Ruben, as coffee and tea aren’t really appropriate for kids. With the low temperature in the arena he didn’t fancy soft drinks, so he was offered hot chocolate.
Another thing his mother told us was how Ruben was filmed for an Internet special called “The
Ketnet Wrap”. He had to skate of course, and at the end they specifically asked him to act
out of breath so he would look really tired. Leave it to the media…
<<You can watch the clip here>> (click on second photo)

Now back to our talk with Ruben.
What all did you do in the show?
“After the opening, in which I didn’t participate, I skated my Buddah Bar program; the song is called “Fire”. <<watch a part of that in our amateur vid** here>> And in the second act I was in a demonstration number where some of the skaters showed jumps and elements. I showed what a double Axel looks like. << watch that also in our vid** here>> The ice was a lot better than the year before! Then they used a tractor to resurface the ice, and the ice was too soft. There were many wet places and you had to work hard to gain speed. But now there was a real Zamboni!”

** For watching be sure to select the smaller image for the best quality (this icon in the lower section of the player )

With which skater did you get along the best? Besides Kevin of course!
We all laugh since Kevin and Ruben have been friends for a long time.
“With Garrett, he was the funniest of them all. But all the skaters were nice to me so I didn’t have problems killing time. But I would have liked it if Brian Joubert was there too because I would love to skate with him once. He’s not so flexible, just like me, but he’s still a very good jumper. Maybe some day I can jump as well as he does now.”

By the way, are you being taken care of well over here?
"Yes. The chocolate milk tastes very good!" (we all laugh)

Ruben’s entire family (mother, father, sister and twin brother) came to Antwerp, but Ruben and his mom stayed in a trailer in the Sport Palace parking lot. Bad experiences the year before made them think of this.
What happened?
“After the show it’s always very crowded when all the people go home. The first year it
took us two hours to get from the Sport Palace to the hotel downtown. Normally that takes about 15 minutes. Two hours is too long and we didn’t want the same trouble again. And going home wasn’t an option since home is 2 hours away, without traffic jams. So my mom and I stayed overnight next to the Sport Palace in our trailer.”

Ruben’s equally talented twin brother has been doing ballet for years.
Is he still at it?
“Yes, he is. He joined the ballet school of Antwerp; it’s the best ballet school in Belgium.”


At this we both let out a unison: "Wow!"

It’s funny that you and your twin brother look exactly alike, but he’s very flexible and you’re not. Is it the ballet that makes him that way?
“He is flexible by nature. Too bad for me I didn’t get much of it...”

Ruben tried to show us some of the things his brother can do. As you can imagine, it looked very funny, and decided to keep to skating poses.

How has your skating developed lately?
“Last year I started landing the double Axel cleanly, which made it my favourite jump next to the Flip, and I am also able to rotate my spins on the inside edge of my skates. And I have a lot more confident in my elements, like my landings and steps.”

The Code Of Points (CoP) has changed a lot in figure skating. How is it working for you?

“When we make my programs we use the CoP, we think about the levels of the spins and steps. But in the free program I’m allowed to do only one long step sequence, so I do a lot of shorter ones. That way the judges can’t count that as a long step sequence and I can do more steps to fill up the whole time of my number.”

How do you go about making new programs?
"Most of the time I use music from TV shows, like Pokemon. My mother picked the Buddah Bar music for my short program. We used the original song but made it fit.
When we’re at the Oberstdorf ice rink we can see how everything will look because there are mirrors on the wall. My mother is very involved with my skating and when she’s not at work, she’s busy with me. My free program is to 'Yu-Gi-Oh’.”
We both gave each other a look of: Yu-who??? So Mireille asked and he explained:
“It’s a Japanese cartoon about the battle between some cartoon characters. But I only use the music; I don’t do any fighting moves in my program.”

Before the 2006 Belgian Championships, Rubens goal was to land the double Axel and place
first among his competitors: Jelle Butzen, Jorik Hendrickx and Steffen Beckers. When we met
Ruben again at Kevin’s show in Liederkerke, one of the first things we asked him was how he
did, as we hadn’t been able to find the results on the Internet. With a big grin he told us he won, and by heart rattled off the website address where we should have looked. But writing it on your hand isn’t necessarily the best place to keep this kind of information…

The subject then switched to summer training and Ruben told us about the Ice-Dome in Oberstdorf where he’s spent several summers.
“Most skaters come back every year so we all know each other. Carolina Kostner and Silvie De Rijcke, my coach, are there. Also pairs like Winkler and Lose, and Sanne in 't Hof, a Dutch girl, comes sometimes.”

But you also train in Jaca, Spain, with Mishin. Which do you like better, Spain or Germany?
(laughs) “I like it at both places! In Oberstdorf we have a little more spare time there to go swimming, in Spain we practice like three hours more per day. Two on ice and one hour off-ice. Off ice we do things like hip-hop and ballet. I like to practise hard and for a short time, that’s what works best for me. To practise less hard but for a longer period of time doesn’t work for me. Spain is also a lot warmer than Oberstdorf. But there are skaters my age there, like Arthur Kill. He’s very good, he has strong technique. And I get along well with Gaby Fernandez, he’s from Spain but we all speak English and that works well. Off ice we do some stuff together, like shoot off fire-works or go swimming. There’s a pool next to the rink and we can use it for free.”

How does working with Mishin differ from training at home?
“I have to work hard. Mishin has his very specific technique, all coaches do. But he always uses good, difficult exercises, which I enjoy very much. In Spain, I write down everything and when I get back home I repeat all the exercises he’s taught me. But my own coach uses the same technique, so it doesn’t get confusing.”


The new icerink in progress, in Jaca Spain

Ruben has spent this summer as well training in Jaca. But camps are very expensive and Ruben is looking for sponsors. He may be a young and very charming kid, but he’s also a promising figure skater who’s very serious about his sport.

What are your plans for the upcoming season?
“I have a new long program, and first I will compete at the Junior Grand Prix in The Hague; it's my very first JGP. After that the Belgian Championship in November. And if all goes well I might be representing Belgium at the Youth Olympics in Jaca, Spain, in February. But to qualify I have to land a triple jump in competition. I have trained hard this summer and I hope I can make it. Cross your fingers for me!”

 

We surely will, and we’re looking forward to seeing more of him in the future and certainly at the 2006 Proximus Stars on Ice! (For more info on PSOI click here)

Before we parted we asked him to make some choices:

French fries or Flemisch ones (they are a lot different from each other!)
K3 or Clouseau
Stars on Ice or the gold medal at the Belgian Championships
Harry Potter or James Bond
Double Axel or triple Flip






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