Isabelle Olsson, another Swedish skater on the rise!
Isabelle is the girl who put pressure on the Helgesson sisters earlier this season by showing she is one to count on. With her impressive performances and placements in international competitions such as the Finlandia Trophy, where she placed 5th, and her win at the Warsaw Cup, she entered the Swedish Nationals as the highest ranked of all the ladies. Isabelle has always had great presentation and interesting programs, but something more has happened since last season. Although she might just recently have been discovered internationally, she is not new to the Swedish figure skating audience. At age 20 she keeps training at the Mörrum Skating Club in southern Sweden where her journey began. I talked to Isabelle about her success and progress this season, but first let's go back to where it all started: with her interest in figure skating:
Your mother, Susanne Olsson, is a coach. Is she the reason you started skating?
Well, I started skating in 1996 when I was 3 years old. Since my mom is a coach and my dad was working we spent a lot of time at the arena and very often ended up on the ice. When I was 11, I decided I really loved skating and that it’s what I wanted to do.
What is your first great skating memory?
I don’t remember my first competition, I have terribly poor memory, but I do remember one time I skated with the older, more skilled students on the “big ice” (main rink). We were going to practice the Lutz and suddenly my mother said: “Isabelle, show us a Lutz!” I thought “oh wow, am I supposed to show this to the (older) skaters?” That made an impression on me since I was so young and normally would have skated in the small rink. Now I got to skate in the big rink with the older skaters.
I know you have answered this question many times before, but how is it to have your mother as a coach?
Well, when I was about 14 or 15 years old it was hard since, as a teenager, I thought everything mom said was wrong, both on and off the ice. Now it is completely different, it works very well and I really like to train and it is nice to have your mother in the figure skating world. My sister Angelica, who also skates, is there to inspire me too or we inspire each other. It is great!
Most of the Swedish rinks have no ice during the summer, so where do you train then?
We have trained in Norway, but also in Gotlandand in Karlskrona and even here in Växjö (where the Swedish Nationals took place) where there is ice even in the summer.
You have been very successful in the five competitions you have participated in so far this season. What have you done to achieve this?
Already last summer I started landing my triple-triple combination and also my double Axel-triple toeloop combination and it became so consistent that we put it in the programs right from the start of this season. My goal was to land them in competition and I did that right away, even though it was hard to get started early in the season. I have been on a nice roll and want that roll to continue after Nationals, even if things didn’t go my way here this time.
You have a great fighting spirit!
Well, for me it is important not to bomb. I’d rather fall than bomb, like for example in the free program here at Nationals. After the double Axel, which had a so-so landing, I went for the triple toeloop. In practice I would not go for a combination after such a bad landing of the double Axel, but in competition I do. So I tried it here, but unfortunately I fell.
No matter what, you always achieve getting the audience’s attention with interesting programs. Who makes your programs?
Her name is Kim Zandvoort. She comes up with some good ideas and themes for the programs and she knows how to find a style that suits me. The first program she choreographed for me was “Kill Bill“. I actually got to choose the music, and I love the “Kill Bill“ movies, so I wanted very much to skate to that theme. Kim said “ok, that will be perfect, ‘Kill Bill’ it is!” We meet with her continuously during the season to update or make little corrections in the programs. Kim also does the entire design of the costume; the hair and the makeup, and Manette Olsson of the Flying Camel Design in Helsingborg makes the costumes for us. She has done that ever since I started skating.
You kept your short program from last season.
Yes, we did, it’s “Boogie Woogie Bungle Boy“ and it is about the 40ies. It is kind of a show program and I am in character from the minute I enter the ice, before the music even starts and before taking the starting position. In the program, I am entertaining the soldiers during the war with singing and dancing, so I am dressed as they were back then, in a sailor outfit.
Do you always choose the music yourself?
Well, we always talk about it…
Sorry, but who are “we”?
Me, Kim and my mom, we all look around for suitable music. We were thinking of ”Candy man” for the free program this season, but could not find a good instrumental version of it. Kim found the “Nightwish Medley“ instead and that was right on.
You presentation skills are very good, it seems to come natural to you.
Well, I think it is more difficult to go all out and live the meaning of the program in the free, but I am working on it and it is getting better and I will keep on working on it for next year. Anyway, in the free program I portray a good fairy who is angry and helps children who are treated badly by adults. In the slower middle part of the program, I take care of the children and in the end of the program, where the music is stronger, I prevail over evil.
What kind of music do you prefer skating to?
I like music with character; that creates a typical Isabelle program. Especially in the short, it is a fun, light program, almost like a show piece. In the free program there are more things to think about; it is more intense. It is difficult to find longer music parts with character. This is probably the best free program I have ever had. I love working with it, love to practice it, so I never feel like “oh no, not the long again” while practicing it.
While training, do you run through the entire long program or do you divide it up, and what is your favorite technical element?
During competitions I don’t do a full run-through, but otherwise I always do. My favorite element is definitely jumping, I love doing the jumps.
Who is you favorite skater?
Carolina Kostner, I have liked her ever since I was little and had her as my role model. Perhaps because she jumps the same way I do, but I also like Michelle Kwan, Joannie Rochette and Yuna Kim.
What happens next for you?
Well, I suppose the Nordics do, which is in February in Iceland.
What competition so far have you been the most pleased with?
The Finlandia Trophy and the Warsaw Cup in Poland. In Finland it felt almost like I was at a big championship since the arena was full, there were cameras everywhere and the support from everyone was so nice. I loved skating there!
So the cameras, press people and all the attention don’t make you nervous?
No, I love cameras; I’m not camera shy at all!
So I have noticed. During the warm-up you are one of the few people looking straight into the camera and even smile, where most skaters look down on the ice. As a photographer I appreciate your kind. What are your goals for this season?
Well, it was Europeans, but after how I performed at Nationals that probably won’t happen. But I hope they look at the entire season and not only the results at Nationals. I think I have shown at other competitions that I deserve to go. I have done what I was supposed to in my programs, except for here at Nationals. If they decide I don’t get to go I am ok with that, there will be more Europeans!
The Swedish Federation decided Isabelle would not represent Sweden in this years’ Europeans in Zagreb, but as she stated: “there will be more Europeans”, and Sweden has three spots next year, so watch out for her!