Hunter's Grace on Ice

Have you seen her on the bus? The young lady gracing the cover of this month’s Aurora is travelling local streets in large action portraits on the sides of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie buses.

Not only is Waratah girl, Kailani Craine, the best promotion for Hunter Ice Skating, but the brightest skating star in the Australian constellation.

What has influenced me to tell you about Kailani?

Two years ago, after meeting South Koreans at Mass, I searched the ‘net to discover a little about their homeland. One of the first things to take my attention was the popularity – no, the adulation – concerning South Korea’s biggest star, figure skater, Yuna Kim.

In 2008, on the cusp of her greatest achievements, World Championship and Olympic Gold, this eighteen-year-old was baptised. Why? It piqued my interest and revealed a fascinating tale about the influence of committed lay people. But that is another story.

What snared me completely was video of Yuna on ice. Pure grace! Watching her skating raised my spirits. I was in awe at the combination of top level athleticism and sheer artistry that come together in this sport that is little known to most Australians.

So I was amazed and overjoyed to discover that we Novocastrians have a figure skating champion of our own. Kailani Craine is on top in Australia, and rapidly on her way on the international scene.

Four times Australian Junior Ladies Champion, and currently the number one ranked female figure skater in Australia in both junior and senior divisions, Kailani is sixteen and still a junior. She is skating towards the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

A friend’s birthday party at the Warners Bay rink can be thanked for Kailani’s introduction to figure skating. Kailani was eight. She was immediately taken with the thrill of gliding freely. What’s more, she was good at it – a natural. Her grandmother bought her a skating dress. She was on her way.

Kailani did not set her sights on being a world beater. She was enjoying herself and “focused on being in the moment”, she told me via Skype from Los Angeles. She concentrated on doing well where she was. She found that she “graduated” naturally from level to level without much thought for the future until she found herself confronted by ‘the nationals’. That’s the National Championships – where Kailani was the underdog.

Underdog status is now left far behind. Kailani dominates in Australia. She has pulled well ahead of the pack.

Her ventures in international competition have been rewarding and promising. Twelfth in the Tallinn Cup (Estonia) and first in the Lombardia Trophy (Italy) are Kailani’s most recent achievements.

Coach George Galanis is impressed with the consistency of Kailani’s efforts and performances, her attitude and commitment to training. “She works hard, very hard, and if she stays fit and healthy there’s no limit to what she can achieve.”

In December she will compete in the National Championships in Brisbane, striving to be the first ever to claim both the junior and senior titles. Her current top ranking in both is based on cumulative performances, not on one event. Kailani will battle with second-ranked Brooklee Han, a senior, who scored a creditable twentieth placing for Australia at the Sochi Winter Olympics early this year. It will be the first time these friends have competed against each other, and it will be a competition worth following.

Enrolled at St Pius X High School, Adamstown, Kailani is sometimes absent. She attends major international competitions, and trains for part of the year in Los Angeles. The school forwards work to her wherever she is around the globe. She has received “tremendous support and encouragement” from staff and students. A request from Tim Howes, Year 10 Student Co-ordinator, that Kailani provide a flag from every nation where she competes has resulted in a substantial collection.

Next year Kailani will progress to St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton. She is reportedly an excellent student with a promising academic future, especially in her favourite areas of maths and the sciences. Kailani appears to balance her sport and studies remarkably well.

At every step Stephen and Katrina have supported and monitored their daughter’s progress and well being. After every success they have asked her if she wished to quit while on a high. “This is what I like doing,” is Kailani’s response.

Stephen speaks with pride about watching his daughter mature, as well as her success. She has developed her own ways to prepare for competition and to deal with stress and any problems which arise. She is taking on with maturity the issues for which her parents were formerly responsible.

Katrina is her constant support in foreign countries. She was moved when strangers threw teddy bears on the ice in appreciation for one of Kailani’s performances. This is a common sign of admiration in some skating nations. While saying Kailani is “the hardest working machine there is”, and admiring her “expressive acting ability when she is performing”, Katrina has highest regard for her daughter’s kindness to people (not always found in competitive circles), especially her keenness to help younger skaters.

What is Kailani’s hope? To compete successfully at the Olympics in 2018. Yes, of course. But revealing true character she says, “I want to make everyone smile and enjoy what I do. If I go down while competing I get up smiling and keep on doing my best.”

Kailani wants Australians to share her passion for this beautiful sport.

A popular contemporary hymn sings to ‘the Lord of sea and sky’. The name Kailani means ‘sea and sky’ in Hawaiian. Every time I sing these words from now on I know I will be drawn to a prayer for Kailani, that she will have grace and success on the ice, and in her whole life.

Please visit http://aussieskates.com/craine/ or you can watch one of Kailani's performances below.

Michael O’Connor Image
Michael O’Connor

Michael is a regular contributor to Aurora Magazine.

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