Following the journey of a young figure skater - Jorik Hendrickx

January 21, 2012
By Mireille Geurts aided by Joy & Titia Tolsma
Photos © Joy & MG

Part 1

European Championships 2010, Tallinn Estonia. A young guy from Belgium takes his first steps on the senior circuit. Quietly but steadily the young guy from Arendonk makes it to the free program and slides into 20th place.

European Championships 2011, Bern Switzerland. The year with the new qualification rounds called preliminaries, the young Belgian, now competing in his second European Championship, wins the preliminary with a landslide.

Our first sighting of Jorik was in 2008 when we (advised by Kevin Van Der Perren, "because it would be exciting") travelled down to Lommel for the Belgian National Championships. Being used to seeing mostly Ruben Blommaert alongside Kevin in competitions, the "sudden" appearance and strong competition of Jelle Butzen and Jorik Hendricks was surprising as well as exciting.

Jorik won this competition, but it was Ruben who got to go to the European Championships that year. Jorik's time would come later.

Why had we never seen him before then?

"In May 2008 I had to stop training on ice completely, because I had a severe groin injury. I did do a lot of walking and cycling, to stay in shape. In this period, I missed my sport so incredibly much. I suddenly realized this is what I want to do, and I would do anything for it. Before I got injured I jumped the double Axel and sometimes the triple loop. In the beginning of August I was able to start training again, we added extra strength and stabilization exersises and at the end of August I could do all jumps of before my injury. Then in a few months time, I acquired the other triples - aside the Axel of course. I do not have enough strength for that yet. Young body, eh?"

Laughs the (then) 16 year old. Young indeed, but very promising.
He didn't expect to win the Belgian Nationals that year.

"No, the difference with Ruben was huge the year before, I didn't expect that for sure. I made a lot of progress in that one year. Despite that, unfortunately, the Belgian federation did not send me to Junior Worlds, because of my lack of experience. I did get to go to other international competitions though, so I could gain some experience."

He started training when he was 5 and a half years old, doing competitions at 9, switching to coach Carine Herijgers at 10.

"That meant I had to change a lot technically, but the ceiling of what I could learn had been reached; this switch felt good and was beneficial for me."

Which one can tell by the fact, even now 10 years later, he still trains with Carine.

May 2009 was the first time we got to see his creative side, at Kevin's Ice Fantillusion shows.

"I cannot compare shows to competitions. Shows are easier, have a good, relaxed atmosphere, with fun reactions from the crowd. At a competition I have to focus much more, that is less fulfilling. On the other hand, good results are also very satisfying."


A season of firsts (2009/2010)

This was going to be an exciting season because it would be the first season Jorik would compete in the Junior Grand Prix circuit. And those first Grand Prix competitions are important memories.

"I got the ones in Poland and Turkey. In Poland I was a bit disillusioned because a few of my jumps weren't called as fully rotated and I made a few other small mistakes. After the short program I was still in the top 10 but after the free, I was just outside of it (11th), which was a real disappointment. In Turkey it went a bit better, because I was better prepared. The first competition of the season is always pretty hard. I felt good, until I knew my start number, I was the very last which meant I had to skate at 23.30 in the evening."

That is late, for a Junior competition.

"Yeah. That is because there is only one ice rink there; the practices as well as the competitions have to be done on the same ice surface. I skated clean anyway, I was 6th after the short program, even the second skater from Europe. The free wasn't entirely clean, but I ended up in 9th anyway. The level was higher than in Poland, so I was satisfied with that."

After that he won the Coupe de Nice, with 2 near flawless programs. From there he went on to the Belgian Nationals, in the very nice city of Luik/Liege, but with an abysmal ice-rink (holes in the ceiling and walls etc). We knew Jorik was not feeling that well at this point.

"I was really tired from the competitions before and I got the flu, which is of course not an excuse, but the short program didn't go well. I came in second place behind Ruben. Really a big shame that I messed up the short so much. With the competitions before it was already determined I would get to go to Junior Worlds, and I really wanted to show why at this competition as well. And then all jumps failed. A real disappointment for my mom as well as she hadn't seen any of the live competitions where I did well and then the first time she could come, I mess up that much."

You can't do everything well all year!

"Yeah, yeah I know. Luckily the free went better, made no mistakes at all, so I ended up winning with 8 points ahead anyway."

We saw his short and free program for the first time there, and I fell in love especially with the free program. Every move seemed to be very fitting with the music, as well as to Jorik, which is the ideal situation. The choreography is done by Lisa Michael and Sandy Sue.

We would have the opportunity to see his programs again, since this would turn out as not only his first Grand Prix season, but also his debut at the European Championships. But this boy did another competition in between as well.

"The NRW Trophy was next, this was right before my exams, but I did pretty okay after all, with a second place. Not flawless but okay enough... Then the exams came up, I couldn't skate for 2 weeks, so I used the Christmas break to train and prepare as much as possible."

His first senior competition would be these Europeans. Let's take the plunge, right?

"Before the European Championships I went with Jenna and Kevin to Yuri Bureiko in Austria. We trained really hard; I was very tired when we got back. At home the training didn't go so well anymore. But in Tallin I did my run-throughs at practices to build up my condition again, that went okay, I skated my short program. Then the surprise, 19th place! I got to skate my long program as well, but I did end in last place then."

There used to be 24 guys in the free. This was the first year there were 20, so that is not bad at all. We did wonder how different it was for him; such a senior competition.

"For me it was more a competition against myself. Of course I saw all the top guys. I was in the dressing room with Brian Joubert and Stephane Lambiel, and I thought 'wow I am in between the big guys'. Of course they know Kevin, and he is a top guy too, but it is pretty different to be surrounded by all those skating champions."

That can be quite a distraction.

"During the competition I was just focused on what I should do. I just tried. I was not at the level of the top 20 yet, but I have been able to profit from a few mistakes others made. I mean I was the only one that made the free without a triple-triple combination, and a triple Axel.

A difference with the senior competitions is also that in the Juniors we go with the group to support the ladies for example, but that didn't happen this time as I was new as well and didn't know many people yet, while in the Juniors I do, of course.

"It helped a lot that Kevin was there as well. He shared his experiences with me. And also, it makes it more familiar. He didn't go with to the banquet though, I went with Manouk (Gijsman - ed) and had a lot of fun."

Jorik was actually focusing more on going to the World Junior Championships than to the Europeans.

"That is because at Junior Worlds I could measure myself; compare against the rest. Personally I didn't feel that I was ready yet, to go to Euros. I didn't have the triple-triple combination yet, nor the triple Axel. And if I am going to do something I want to do it well. So it was more a bonus that I got the competition, which I was aiming for, but it was a really good experience! And in the end it was a good result as well.

Afterwards there was much "ado" (congratulations and all) and because of that the peak was more on Euros than on World Juniors, I tried to prepare as well as possible for it. In practices it didn't go too well and neither in the competition. 15th was my result and I was not happy with that. And if I look back at it I see so much more would have been possible, if only I made one mistake less, I would have been in the top 12. At first that felt really negative, but afterwards I tried to look at it more positively."

Go to part 2 for the rest of Joriks journey: Skating in the family, Thermal underwear etc.

Ice Fantillusion 2009


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