Loena Hendrickx: “Of course, age minimum should be raised. It’s very cool when you have a long career like Liza Tuktamysheva. Do you know how inspiring is it?”
Interview with Loena Hendrickx for Russian media. Loena spoke about quad jumps, injuries, figure skating in Europe and alos shared her opinion on raising the age minimum.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 24th November, 2021 by Vlad Zhukov
I would like to start with the main thing – you have an amazing name. Why did you parents name you so?
Loena Hendrickx: Oh thank you! (Laughs.) Honestly, I don’t know why. This name is not very popular in Belgium. I think that’s why my parents chose it – they wanted something more unusual, different from the rest. And I definitely like it.
You said in interviews that you have always struggled the jumps. What is the reason?
Loena Hendrickx: I think that’s because I started to train hard rather late. Well, you know, really serious – twice a day or more. It started when I was about 13 years old. Before that, I trained once a day, about five days a week.
Therefore, my triples, so to speak, are too young. I started to jump all triples and a double axel only at the age of 16. Of course, it is better to start doing them around 12 – then your body has time to get used to it, and in the future it becomes easier. This is probably where my jumping problems lie.
Can you tell us how the athlete funding works in Belgium? Do you receive any support from the state?
Loena Hendrickx: Now – yes, but the path to this took a very long time. When I first qualified for the Olympics [2018 in PyeongChang], I was told, “Wow, you are really talented! We will support you!” But all the same, everything works a little differently from how it should, because you pay AT ALL for everything. Therefore, I’m very glad that during all these difficult moments my brother [Jorik Hendrickx, a former Belgian figure skater] was with me. He has already gone this way, so everything was a little easier for me.
And how was it before?
Loena Hendrickx: Well, I trained for free, because Jorik already had a coach [Carine Herrygers, she also coached Luna since she was 4], and I could train with him. We also had sponsorship to pay for travel to international competitions and additional trainings. This helped me a lot.
In figure skating there is such a stereotype that it is better for an athlete to represent some serious country such as USA, Russia, Japan. Have you faced difficulties because Belgium is not one of those countries?
Loena Hendrickx: Yes, in the beginning it was really difficult. When you represent a very small country, you have to work hard to get to the top. Fortunately, now the judges know me, I put a lot of effort into this. So now I’m happy that people know who I’m and what I’m capable of.
What do you think about when you see how Russian girls compete with each other in the number of quadruple jumps in the program?
Loena Hendrickx: You know, this is crazy! (Laughs.) When I see how Russian girls start jumping quadruples already at the age of 12 … It is simply unbelievable. If to imagine a hypothetical 12-year-old child who does figure skater, I can hardly predict when he will jump triples. And in Russia they are already doing quads at this age! Seriously, I can’t understand how this is possible.
Have you ever wanted to try a quadruple yourself?
Loena Hendrickx: And I’ve already tried, only with “protection”. I think, I tried it for the first time about two years ago, but then I tore my ligaments and dropped out of the training process for several months. Then I got a kind of inflammation in the tendon – and again I lost a few months of training. Putting it all together, I lost about a year. And at that time I hardly practiced. And when I returned to the ice, we decided to focus on triples and eliminate any unnecessary risk. I think that’s why I managed to make such a good comeback last season.
By the way, this summer I also tried quads and triple axel several times. And also with “protection”, I don’t jump without it, because I have to take care of myself – the season is too responsible. Maybe after that we can pay more attention to the quads and the triple axel.
Which quad did you try? Usually they start with a toe loop and salchow.
Loena Hendrickx: It was a toe loop. Well, and once I tried a quad flip.
Your brother Jorik Hendrix is coaching you. How is it like to be coached by someone you know from childhood?
Loena Hendrickx: It’s actually a very cool feeling. Jorik is a really cool coach, very creative. And he knows a lot about figure skating. This can be seen in everything he does on the ice. I am very glad that he is part of my team.
Have you ever thought about switching to another coach? Perhaps someone more experienced, who brought the athletes to medals at the World and European Championships.
Loena Hendrickx: Actually, no. By the way, this summer the coach with whom I have been training since the age of four left my team. She said she had nothing more to teach me. At that moment, she was probably not very confident in her abilities – that’s why she didn’t want to work with me anymore. So now Jorik and I are left alone. But it seems to me that everything is going well.
This summer you were at the training camp with Alexei Mishin. Why did you decide on this?
Loena Hendrickx: Of course, because of the technique. Especially because of the triple axel. I really wanted to know what he thinks about it. And to hear some advice from him.
So the Russian coaching school is really the best in the world?
Loena Hendrickx: I think yes. Russian coaches know a lot about technique and all that. At the same time, they are also constantly learning something new. This is impressive.
Which of the Russian coaches can you single out for yourself?
Loena Hendrickx: Alexei Mishin and Eteri (it was hard for Loena to pronounce “Tutberidze”). They have prepared so many champions … Not one, but several, a whole series. This says a lot about a coach – when there are many famous skaters in his group.
It seems to me that every athlete has some funny story about Alexei Mishin. Bradie Tennell said that when she was at his training camp, he called her every popped jump “popcorn”, and it amused her. Did you have something like that?
Loena Hendrickx: I remember, every time we took pictures, he stood on his toes so as not to seem small (laughs). And he constantly put his hat on me! As I later understood, he does this with everyone. It was very funny.
Is there anything you don’t like about modern women’s single skating?
Loena Hendrickx: Well, here we have to talk about the age to compete in seniors. Of course, it should be raised. I think this is a very good option, because it’s very cool when you have a long, eventful career. Well, you know, like Liza Tuktamysheva’s. I cheer for her. She skates for so many years and never gives up. Do you know how inspiring is that?
I heard you offered to raise it to 18 years old. Why exactly this age?
Loena Hendrickx: From my own perspective, I can say that this is really a very good age. You have already gone through puberty, through the phase of growing up … I think that at the age of 18 you can already call yourself a real woman. Well, at least in terms of the body.
Many people believe that age minimum will help reduce injuries in figure skating. Do you agree?
Loena Hendrickx: Maybe yes. Because when you don’t need to rush anywhere, there is more time to distribute the loads in training properly and not to force it. And, of course, you start to monitor your health more carefully. There is also time for this.
By the way, have you heard what happened to Dasha Usacheva in Japan?
Loena Hendrickx: Yes. I even saw it. Something happened with her thigh. At first I read that the problem was in her ankle, but then it turned out that she had something broken in her hip. I want to wish her a speedy recovery. I know how difficult it is.
We’re talking about situations like this, right? This is what the age minimum should help to avoid?
Loena Hendrickx: Well, there will be also injuries after 18, of course. You have to be ready for this. And it also happened to me. Sometimes injuries happen during training, and you simply cannot predict when and what will happen.
You won’t be able to completely avoid this, but adjusting the load during training can help a little with this. Because with a higher age minimum, you have more time to achieve something in sports.
You also had a serious injury at a young age. If I’m not confusing anything, at the age of 16.
Loena Hendrickx: Yes, I broke my spine.
How did it happen? Did you also try to do everything in time?
Loena Hendrickx: All due to overtraining. I have a naturally flexible back, and the muscles, I think, simply did not have time to form and get stronger by that time. Especially in the back. Therefore, Biellmann and other layback spins were madly inconvenient for me. And in one moment – it just happened.
How did you get back? This is a very serious injury.
Loena Hendrickx: Oh, it was a hard time. They put a corset on me – from the right knee to the chest. They said to wear it for three months. Then three more months of rehabilitation with a physiotherapist, and only then I was able to go on the ice again. I started to jump only a month later.
It was hard … Plus, the injury happened in the first year, when I could go to the senior Worlds and Europeans. But, of course, everything had to be canceled.
Tell me, how many triple jumps do you do in one workout on average?
Loena Hendrickx: Wow, you ask such questions… I need to think …
Loena Hendrickx: Are you serious? (Laughs.) We glide a lot, skate parts of the programs, relax on the ice. So it turns out, probably, 50 jumps per workout.
Why I asked, Russian junior Sophia Samodelkina has once told me what she does up to 500 jumps per workout.
Loena Hendrickx: How many?!
Well, yes. Can you imagine a similar volume of loads applied to yourself?
Loena Hendrickx: Oh … Honestly, I can’t even imagine. I don’t think my body will allow me to jump that much. My body started to hurt when you mentioned that number (laughs).
In Russia, it is customary to think about European coaches that they are quite loyal and gentle, they never force. Is it true?
Loena Hendrickx: I think yes.
Do you have any idea of Russian coaches in Europe? For example, about Alexei Mishin or Eteri Tutberidze? Let’s say that Eteri is strict, and Mishin, on the contrary and something like that.
Loena Hendrickx: Honestly, I don’t know. But in general, I will say this: any coach must be moderately strict. Even so: strict in his manner. At the same time, he needs to know when to stop, because the athlete should be comfortable with the coach. Athlete must enjoy the process.
There is something else I would like to ask about comparing Russia and Europe. I often hear that European athletes are not at all like ours. You know, Russians are more fixated on medals and victories and are starting to go a little crazy because of this, and in Europe the main task is to enjoy the very process. This is true?
Loena Hendrickx: With regard to Europeans, yes. For me – that’s right. I remember all these injuries that I had to go through … I think I was able to cope with it because of my love for figure skating. So I really would like to enjoy it.
On the other hand, I also want to train hard and win medals, like at the Italian Grand Prix. It was just amazing … So I think if you can combine the pleasure of the process with the result, it will be a very cool combination.
Does it help or, on the contrary, hinder? In Russia, there is an opinion that sports should be taken seriously, otherwise it will be difficult to achieve results. We even have the expression “to go to the competitions like to a war.”
Loena Hendrickx: Well, of course you have to take sports seriously. On the other hand, you can’t get in over your head, right? So you just have to do what you have to do. But not at the expense of the pleasure of the process.
It is believed that Russian figure skaters are progressing primarily due to internal competition. Does Belgium even have it?
Loena Hendrickx: Not really … We have a cool junior girl – Nina Pinzarrone. She is very good for her age, but the rest … No, I don’t think so.
They say figure skating in Europe is almost dead. Is it true? How do you think?
Loena Hendrickx: Yes. Take Belgium for example. We have no support from the federation. You have to do everything yourself, pay for everything yourself. If the guys are helped, well, at least with paying for training camps abroad and with trips to international competitions, our sport will become a little … Bigger, perhaps.
Can a skater be popular in Europe now?
Loena Hendrickx: This is a really difficult question …
Well, for example, do they recognize you on the streets?
Loena Hendrickx: I have my photo stuck on my car, so … (Laughs.) In general, if I drive a car, someone will recognize. And just on the streets – I don’t think so.
Even after finishing fifth at the World Championship?
Loena Hendrickx: Nope.
Why? This is a really serious achievement.
Loena Hendrickx: Honestly, I don’t even know. After the World Championships, I’ve got into newspapers and TV news for the first time, and that was already a huge achievement (laughs). And what about the streets … Maybe the problem is that in everyday life I don’t bother with make-up as much as I do at competitions. Without it, I probably look a little different.
Is this your favorite tournament of your career?
Loena Hendrickx: Yes, one of my favorites. At that time I was just recovering from serious injuries, and the World Championships was the first major competition after all this. I wanted to understand whether I could be at the same level as before. But in the end it turned out that in fact everything is even better than before.
What needs to be done to make figure skating popular again in Europe?
Loena Hendrickx: Probably hold more training camps to attract the attention of adults and small children. Well, in schools they could instill a love for figure skating. For example, going to ice rinks or something like that.
In Russia, it is believed that various scandals played a major role in the popularity of figure skating. I don’t know if you heard it or not, but last season the story of the confrontation between the coaching schools of Evgeni Plushenko and Eteri Tutberidze was very big. Before that, there was the story of Alina Zagitova against Evgenia Medvedeva. Do you think something like this could have happened in European figure skating?
Loena Hendrickx: Perhaps, but I don’t think it would somehow help us. In Russia, figure skating is much more popular than in Europe, so stories like this are captivating a large number of people. In Europe, they would just fly by and go unnoticed.
Do you think it would not help to raise the popularity in Europe?
Loena Hendrickx: Well, you know what they say: bad PR is PR too. But I would like to have more positive news stories in our sport.
I don’t know whether you know, but in Russia you have many fans. You have already performed in our country several times, what are your impressions?
Loena Hendrickx: Oh, I still remember the European Championships  in Moscow. It was just amazing, besides, I also did a good free skate. And the audience was so loud! Probably the loudest and biggest audience in my memory. Except for Japan, maybe they are just amazing there.
What result can you praise yourself for at the 2022 Olympics? Is there a specific goal in your head as a benchmark for success?
Loena Hendrickx: I think the main goal is to get an Olympic diploma. So if I get into the top 8, it will already be a great result for me. And if I also skate clean and can enjoy my performance, it will be something special.
Your style on the ice look amazing. Who designs all these incredible dresses?
Loena Hendrickx: This year we wanted something new. Previously, all my dresses were made by my former coach, but now we wanted to try something special, more detailed. We searched for images on Instagram, searched all social networks. When we found what we needed, we sent the photos to a Finnish company to make us a design. Then they sent us sketches for revision – and this is how my dresses for this season appeared.
I can not help saying that. The dress for the free program is just a bomb.
Loena Hendrickx: Oh, it’s my favorite too (laughs).
What do fans need to know about you? What do you like to do in your free time, what kind of music do you listen to, what do you value in people?
Loena Hendrickx: As for the music, it’s probably pop, which is played on the radio. I listen it most often. I also like Andrea Bocelli … and I’m also a huge Celine Dion fan! (Laughs.)
In my free time I like to do nails design. Actually, you know, I even studied it. Since this summer I fell in love with golf – I play it to relieve stress. I also love children very much. When I finish skating, I want to become a kindergarten teacher.
Your brother competed at the Olympic Games in Sochi, where you will soon go to the Grand Prix. What did he tell about this city and about the Olympics in general?
Loena Hendrickx: He often recalls that Olympics. He said that there was just a huge Olympic village – much larger than in Pyeongchang. He had to get to the rink by bike … I think it was an amazing experience for him. And I’m very glad that I will have the opportunity to see that Olympic skating rink with my own eyes and compete in Sochi.
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