Loena Hendrickx: “I always believed in Russian girls and their results, but after the Olympics, certain doubts appeared. I think this is very sad and hurts figure skating.”
Interview with Loena Hendrickx for Russian media. About changes after a successful season, figure skating in Belgium, her artistic images on the ice, the age minimum, and the suspension of Russian athletes.
source: sports.ru dd. 12th December 2022 by Maiia Bagryantseva
Last season was a real breakthrough in your career. Did the new titles change you somehow?
Loena Hendrickx: No, inside, I’m the same. Except I’m more proud of myself now. Well, it adds motivation, which you need to move forward. I train in the same way, and I also set myself up for competitions in the same way. If anything changed, it was after a series of injuries that left me unable to skate normally for nearly 1.5 years (Luna missed the 2019-20 season due to ankle problems – Sports.ru).
Now I understand that the reserves of my body are not infinite and that I can get injured very easily. Therefore, I had to change the entire training system. Now I devote much more time to working out in the gym, preparing my body for training sessions on the ice.
I recently discussed this with my brother: I skated one of the last ones in the warm-up for the entire season. Strange feeling. What if everything changes and I start skating first? Will it change something? I don’t know. For example, I am no longer nervous before a 6-minute warm-up, but before I was shaking. Now everything is different: I’m calm before the warm-up, but then another 40 minutes pass before my skate, and it’s already impossible to keep this calm, haha.
How popular are you in Belgium? Do you feel like a star? Do they recognize you on the streets, for example?
Loena Hendrickx: Yes, they started to recognize a little, especially after the gold medal at the first stage of the Grand Prix in October. This is the first time in the history of Belgium, so it was written about as an achievement. But of course, figure skating at home is far from football. If I win a medal at competitions, then for a couple of days they talk about it in the news and write about it in newspapers; they congratulate me—and then silence again.
To be honest, I even like it. I don’t like attention; I don’t feel very comfortable with it. After winning silver at the World Championships, it was crazy at home, and it bothered me a lot.
It is one thing when you are an example and inspiration for someone, and another when you start to have such close attention. I felt uneasy: people are suddenly afraid of you, even shun you a little because they think you’re such a celebrity now. I understand them; I myself still look at many skaters like that.
Tell us about figure skating in Belgium. You recently had the National Championships. How does it look?
Loena Hendrickx: Sure, you can’t compare it with Russia. Of course there are skaters at the National Championships, but there are very few of them. For example, there were two in my category, so there was even no one to award bronze. And in ice dance, pairs and men there were no senior participants at all. There were more participantes in juniors – 15 people.
However, it is important to understand that combining serious sports and studies is extremely difficult in Belgium. They will not let you skip school and go to competitions, and you cannot miss classes at all. I was lucky: I was able to transfer to a Dutch school. Their education system allows partial online study. And I live almost on the very border of Belgium and the Netherlands, so I could go to study in another country.
Which, by the way, did not work out for my older brother. Jorik went to school every day from 8 to 16 and only then went to the skating rink. Also, homework! I always admired him because I saw what his love for figure skating cost him. For the level of training that he could afford, he achieved huge results.
Does the state participate in training?
Loena Hendrickx: Yes, if you show results, you can count on state support, which, of course, is rather strange. How will you achieve these results? I was noticed after my first World Championships, when I won a spot for Belgium at the Olympic Games. Something like, “Hmm, she seems talented; let’s help.”
But it would be nice to do the opposite: invest in young athletes so that they have the opportunity to develop talent. Otherwise, no one will come to Belgian figure skating after me. After all, someone has to pay for ice, equipment, and so on.
Is figure skating in Belgium expensive?
Loena Hendrickx: Yes very. Well, probably, like everywhere else, this is an expensive sport. I even raised money through crowdfunding last season; otherwise, it would have been difficult to prepare for the Olympics.
Is it easier now? Do you feel any financial independence?
Loena Hendrickx: I still count everything very carefully, haha. What competitioms to go to; whether it is worth flying to the other side of the world. The state allocates me a certain amount, and within its framework, I can do what I see as necessary. So that’s part of my job: to sit down and calculate the season in advance so that there is enough money for all the preparation. Yes, advertising contracts have appeared now, but they do not change the picture much.
In figure skating, it is very difficult to get a big sponsor. During the performance, I have nowhere to place an advertising patch, I skate in a dress. So a brand can get publicity only in kiss-and-cry, and even then for a moment. So I can’t say that I have something to offer big brands. Unlike the football players, for example, who run around the field for two halves while wearing a uniform with the sponsor’s logo. And in Belgium, they pay attention to such things and know how to count money. I’m not very profitable for them.
Yes, I became the face of a sportswear brand, which is great; now I have free training clothes, yay. But in this matter, I am definitely not Kevin De Bruyne (famous Belgian football player – Sports.ru).
That is, you need to think about the future after sports right now.
Loena Hendrickx: Yes, exactly. This fall, by the way, my studies began—while online, of course. I am studying to be a teacher in a kindergarten, and I really like working with children.
Do you want to become a coach?
Loena Hendrickx: We’ll see. But first, I would like to get a diploma in pedagogy. Of course, it is impossible to imagine that I will finish competing and forget about the ice; I love figure skating. I think it would be logical to join Jorik’s team as a coach. It seems to me that we will make a great Hendrickxs tandem. But for now, my goal is the next Olympic Games. My dream is to become the first Belgian figure skater to compete in three Olympics.
This is your eighth season; what do you feel more: experience or exhaustion?
Loena Hendrickx: Both. As we age, things feel a little different. When you’re 15, you don’t keep in mind that something can go wrong. You go on the ice and skate without thinking about anything. And the older you get, the more difficult it is to cope with nerves and skate consistently.
Teenagers still have puberty ahead, and you have successfully overcome it. Was it hard?
Loena Hendrickx: It happens to everyone; there were no exceptions yet, haha. The body is changing, and you have to relearn everything that you did well on the ice. All jumps crumble, everything resets to zero, and it’s very hard. That is why I appreciate women’s skating more than children’s skating, and I’m glad that they raised the age minimum. This allows you to see more conscious skating. It is more interesting to look at older skaters; there is a story behind them.
Liza Tuktamysheva is my favorite Russian girl. I know what this transformation from a girl to a woman costs and how hard it is to survive in sports. But the main change occurs not even with the body, but with the head. You become more conscious, you begin to understand how much you love to skate, and you don’t do it out of inertia or “because it so happened.” If everything is given to you and it’s easy for you, you don’t appreciate it.
As for the weight, yes, at the age of 16-17 it was especially hard for me. I ate all the same things in the same quantities, but suddenly began to gain weight dramatically. I got scared and went to a nutritionist. She explained to me everything that I did not understand about my body: what to eat, when to eat, and in what proportions, because everything had been studied long ago.
For example, the same banana, if eaten at different times of the day along with different foods, will have a different effect on your body. You may be trying to eat healthy, but you’re still doing it wrong. You need to learn proper nutrition just as you learn how to skate. I have never been on a diet, and even more so, I do not live under strict restrictions now. It is impossible to eat super healthily all year. So I eat both pizza and French fries, and I don’t demonize such foods. I want to enjoy life, and delicious food is an integral part of that. The main thing here is balance.
You said that you are a rather shy person. On the ice, you are a real sex symbol. How natural do you feel in this artistic image?
Loena Hendrickx: It seems to me that over the years I have become more confident and less shy. If before I was not very comfortable going on the ice in front of the audience, now there are no problems with this. As soon as I am in front of an audience, I feel at home. I enjoy performing, I enjoy the audience, and I no longer get tense during programs. But I get off the ice, and I become an ordinary Loena again, a normal girl, without bright costumes and makeup.
Such artistic images are the idea of our team. My choreographer, Adam Solya, especially helped me reveal myself. He keeps saying that he wants to take me out of my shell, take me out of my comfort zone, and show the audience a different Loena, which can reveal different images on the ice—well, so that I don’t skate only the conditional Celine Dion.
We want to show that women’s skating is not limited to lyrical songs and romantic programs. I want to open up on the other side and show something bright and memorable.
How do you dress in usual life?
Loena Hendrickx: It all depends on the mood. Sometimes I feel like a fighter, so I put on a hoodie, something athletic, and sneakers. And sometimes it’s a dress and high heels, although, to be honest, I don’t like the classics. But I am different and can look different.
Would you agree to star in a candid photo shoot for some magazine?
Loena Hendrickx: Oh, I don’t think so. I think this story is not about me at all. To be honest, I don’t feel very confident, even in a bathing suit on the beach, and I don’t feel beautiful at all. When I’m dressed, I feel more comfortable, haha.
Is the absence of Russian skaters this season an advantage or a disadvantage?
Loena Hendrickx: Both. There are many moments here. Firstly, I don’t think it’s right what’s going on in the world, and I’m terribly sad to see all this in the news. Secondly, let’s not forget that in our sport, not entirely fair things happened last season. I always believed in Russian girls and their results, but after the Olympics, certain doubts appeared.
I think this is very sad and hurts figure skating. We all want to compete fairly. It seems to me that they all need to realize that it shouldn’t be so and that something must change. Sports must be fair.
Russian figure skaters are very strong. However, when questions about the fairness of some of their results arose, the thought “Would they be so much stronger than the rest of the skaters if they played by the rules?” also arose. Many people now have such doubts.
If, as a result of the investigation into Valieva’s case, the results of the European Championships are reviewed, you may be given bronze. Have you thought about it?
Loena Hendrickx: It’s a thing of the past, anyway. Even if this happens, the moment is still lost. Well, they will give me bronze—so what? If it was rightfully mine, then I needed it then, a year ago. For me, it would have been a cosmic event. But what now? At the World Championships, there were incredible sensations when I held a silver medal in my hands. So now I’m just looking forward—the next European Championships is coming soon; let’s see what it will bring me.
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