Jorik Hendrickx "I repeat the word 'unique' a lot, but that's how it felt!"

March 15, 2018
By Mireille Geurts
Photos © EMJO, Joy, Mireille Geurts, Jorik Hendrickx

"During the Opening Ceremony, we had to wait quite a while before it was time to march out into the arena, behind our Belgian flag. Sis Loena, and coach Carine went around trading pins with other countries like two nutcases. After a while I decided to join in, to kill some time, and then my competitive side showed up and I really had to have loads! :) When it was finally our turn and they called out Belgium, my hair stood straight up, really an awesome feeling! I glanced a few times to my right and realised that we accomplished our common dream, because to my right Loena was marching into the arena. That was a real emotional moment... So proud we were standing there!"

Speaking is Jorik Hendrickx from Belgium about his experiences at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in PyeongChang, and the Games in general.

"I feel very content, thinking back to these Olympic Games. In Sochi I was 16th, and when the press asked if I would beat that result I found it difficult to answer, as my level improved since then but so did my competition. I placed 14th which is definitely a good result.

He was competing in the men's event, his sister Loena in the ladies' event and with them was, after a successful crowdfunding campaign, their mother Lutgart. We had already talked before how he expected it to feel, to be there with his sister, so how did it actually feel when the moment arrived?

"Of course it made the experience very unique and fun, it was very special to be there with Loena. When you both have accomplished something like that and also are both able to deliver on such good achievements, it's an unique experience, especially with our mother there in the audience. That made it even more unique, she'd never experienced a big competition live before, and to be there at Olympics in Korea made it very special and unique, for her and us. I repeat the word 'unique' a lot, I am aware of that, but that's how it felt!"

Also during the Olympics, Jorik had his coming out,  to the Belgian media. I wondered what made him choose that moment and if he hadn't been afraid that would overshadow his sporting achievements in the press.

"A few weeks before the Olympics, I had given an interview to a Holebi website, because I feel very comfortable with my orientation. At the Games you get more media attention and the interview had been noticed so they wanted to talk to me about it. It wasn't really a decision of "Now I want to come out!" it was more that I was confronted with it and I felt comfortable to talk about it. In an ideal world such an interview wouldn't be needed, but I thought perhaps I can inspire other people to not make a taboo out of it and just speak openly about it. I hoped the media would focus on the sport and not on my orientation, which they luckily did and it was respectfully handled. All in all a positive experience. "

The original talk I had with Jorik was quite long and got even longer with the added updates, so we published part of it during the Olympic Games already.  We discussed qualifying for the Olympics and his expectations, his programs, past and present and more, click here if you want to catch up with that. That part ended with us laughing about Jorik calling triple jumps 'easy' and changed that to 'easier' when compared to quad jumps. Which led to Jorik explaining the latest developments on why he hasn't incorporated a quad yet in his competition programs.

"In one word; injuries. Hard to get back after every injury. I won't say never. I keep trying every year. But for sure I won't put sole focus on the quad. My ankles are so weak, I tape them every day already and an accident can happen so easily. It's not that I don't want to, but is it smart?

So many quads in one program is hard on the body, costs a lot of focus, so it's natural that other elements can suffer. I am not going to fuss about the quad, it's more important to me that I like to skate. I had a dip after Sochi, didn't know if I wanted to continue. And I don't want that to happen again now, because I put the focus on the mistakes. I WANT to improve, but is the only road with the quad?  I will try to integrate it, but will I focus solely on it? No."

Pretty clear, and rightfully so. And if you look back at his experiences since our article in 2017, it only makes more sense.  Back then he expressed hope that he, as well as his sister Loena, would be able to show good and stable programs at the World Championships. As history tells us now, Loena had an awesome debut, placing 7th in her first Europeans and 15th at Worlds,  but Jorik surpisingly ended up 21st, missing the Olympic qualification by one spot.

"I was very disillusioned after Worlds, but looking back it wasn't that terrible actually. The level of skating there was so incredibly high, you just couldn't afford to make any mistakes. Of course it was a big disappointment, and it was very hard for me, but I was very empty towards the end of the season, it was all a bit much. I think that's why it's important this season to plan enough recovery time, to keep the freshness, as we have to peak 3 times, as opposed to 2. 

Last year I had school, graduating for my bachelors degree,  my coaching education. It was a very long season. I had issues in the preparation for Worlds. In the end, I did show the hard elements, my triple Axel was good, but I made stupid little errors, which were very costly.

So yes, disappointed, but I regrouped and started in May full out with my training... and then I tore 3 ligaments in my ankle doing a triple Axel. Yes that same ankle from Trophee Eric Bombard 2012. It's my weak spot, and when I train on the quad and I am not fully rotated, I always lightly twist my ankle. So then I got a cast for a week, and needed 5 to 6 weeks of rehabilitation, before I could jump stable again. That was quite a set-back."

And unfortunately it wasn't the only one of the pre-season.

"In April, after Worlds I hadn't scheduled in a holiday so I could go in June to the wedding of Danielle Montalbano & Michal Brezina, but now that coincided exactly with the time I was finally able to get back on the ice. I really pondered if I should go, but it's an unique experience, and it's one of those unique things in the skating world, that you make friends all over the world. I also really needed to clear my head a little. So I went. And when I got back I got inflammation due to my wisdom teeth. Couldn't eat for 10 days, lived on soya-drinks, which made me lose 6 kilos. My muscle tissue went down as well... which actually kind of helped me on the ice. So I had to have the teeth pulled, and then practice went quite okay on the ice. I was skinny, so I could turn really fast. At the end of July when training in Courchevel, I again twisted my ankle, again a ligament ripped. Going back home wasn't a good idea, sitting for long time in a plane or train wouldn't be good for it, so I stayed and worked with an osteopath. That made me lose another 10 days... I started skating again, with slight pain, did a test skate, with only 6 triple toeloops, it was the only jump I was able to do. 

Then I went home and did an internship in Turnhout. It was really nice to be home. The week after we went to Italy, where Carine was the head coach. Then back to Belgium, and finally stayed home till the Nebelhorn Trophy."

Which he won. So at least some light at the end of that tunnel. He had several competitions planned in between then and now; the Cup of Nice, 2nd place, Skate Canada, 5th place and then had to call in sick for Skate America. At the European Championships he clocked a 10th place, a disappointing result for most of all himself, having been 5th at the Europeans before. The season a bit rocky, with the Olympics upcoming, I asked if he still has fun skating.

"Yes! I still enjoy skating, I wouldn't continue only to go to the Olympics. There is so much you have to skip in your life to be able to compete at this level, without joy it wouldn't be worth it. I am not saying I enjoy every practice and there are mornings I'd rather turn around and sleep a bit more, but doesn't everybody have that? A regular job is no picnic either. And this is my hobby.. and my job. So if I didn't still like it, I wouldn't give up so much for it. 

I will continue if the motivation is there. The fun is there. A realistic goal. Is another 5th place at Europeans it? Maybe I can train the quad this summer and jump it at a next Europeans. Or improve in some other way. Who knows. I will just see."

That is very good news. And there are also proposals to change the focus there is on the quad jumps these days, so who knows that may work out well for him. But he also got his coaching degree, so perhaps we will see him beside the boards some day?

"Yes, that is one of the options, but there has to be work, and there has to be results. I wouldn't want to work 'just for the money'. There has to be a goal. I wouldn't mind it being a 15 year plan, but there has to be a structure, planning, and this way we can train professionally.  It doesn't have to be European or World goals, but at least with dedicated pupils who have fun in it, but also want to work hard and are disciplined to reach something. Not just with kids who come to skate a few times in the week to waste some time. "

Continuing skating does not only depend on Jorik's wishes, finances also play a role in this. The situation in Belgium is that in the year of the Olympic Games, the Olympic Committee supports the skaters a little, but that funding went to Loena this year. After your first Olympics, it's the government's support. We talked about finances before with Jorik, as he handles not only his, but also helps out his sister.

"Loena has been to Worlds by her own means, although afterwards she got a little of her expenses refunded. But the whole road to that Worlds has been on her own, which I did give a lot of my time and energy to, to gain funds. We organised benefits, got her a sponsor. The sponsor money I received, I transferred to her, because it would have been a real shame for her not to be able to get on this level. We are in luck that we skate together, so we can share the ice, our coach, but of course she does have to get her own plane tickets, hotel etc. "

Now we're skating on that temporary ice rink, we have steady hours every day, which helped us a big deal. Especially because we both go to school as well and Carine also could plan it in better, so getting this structure works out great for all of us."

So that temporary ice rink improved their situation... Jorik explains while laughing:

"When it comes to hours yes.. facility wise though... Ok, the quality of the ice isn't optimal, but all people there work voluntarily which is awesome. When I came here I did feel the quality difference. Oberstdorf does have the best ice quality of course. 
I always say, when I can do it at home I can do it every where!"

We both have to laugh at that.

This part of our conversation took place in the Ice Dome, in Oberstdorf, in front of the coffee area, between the several ice rinks. If you have been there you know the layout,  everybody passes there, so we had several interuptions for autographs, people asking things, me spotting Maria one of our photographers and asking her to shoot a few photos during the interview etc. This ended in a group conversation about the exhibition, which Jorik had to skate in in a few hours.

"A lot of people are going to do fun things, so I will just do my style, easy going and enjoy it.."

Maria and Lena were more in the mood for something fun and upbeat and asked about the program he did in Ostrava.

"My gala number at Europeans? You liked that? Really?? When I watch that back I am like 'it's not me'..."

They insist, it's different and he did it well.

"Really? Well you know what, I have to be prepared then! Because at the Challenge Cup in the Hague I did a fun number - it's on youtube - and I untied my man-bun, but it didn't work, so I was struggling with that. And there was "now first let's take a selfie" where Loena would come out with a selfie stick and phone, but she was too late. So it was all messy. But if you wanna laugh, you can watch it. (We can't find it on youtube - ed).

So maybe I should change my act? I am hesistating now. Next time, okay? Today I will skate nice, because I am exhausted... "

When they left us, Jorik was still in dubio, pondering if he should change his mind.

"Should I skate something fun then? You know, I may be a bit too serious, doing something fun may be better, but if I do that I have to be prepared. "

I responded he'd just do what felt right to him, and to enjoy, as that's the most important. His gala program did not end up to be fun, but his heart was in it, which made it gorgeous. And that's what matters in the end, right?

Since the Olympics ended, Jorik has announced he will not be skating at the World Championships in Milan.

"The decision to cancel Worlds is simply fatique, my body is exhausted, I wouldn't be able to put down the same achievement as I did at the Olympic Games, so I decided to give my body the recovery it deserves, to take some rest for the upcoming months and see what that brings."

Since our talk about his future plans a few months ago I did ask him if anything changed since then.

"I will give my body some rest and then evaluate, see how I feel, what goals I have. I have to talk with the government about financial support; without a budget it's not possible. If  I still find goals I might stick around 2 more seasons, although I can't pin myself down on that. This summer I have an internship in Oberstdorf planned, and in Turnhout I will I give some lessons here and there during the bootcamp . The summer looks quite full but I am looking forward to it."

Have a nice and relaxing summer Jorik!


In case you would like to read more, and you happened to miss 'the story on Jorik so far' you can catch up here:

* Following the journey of a young figure skater (2012)
* The journey continues (2013)
* The journey becomes Olympic (2014)
* Jorik Hendrickx "It is so unique to share this journey with my sister" (2017)
* Jorik Hendrickx "Olympics are really the icing on the cake for an athlete!" (2018)

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