Hendrickx emphasis artistic approach to skatingBelgian champion enjoys artistry of sport, working with sister Loena
Two-time Belgian champion Jorik Hendrickx is no stranger to international success, though his achievements have been rather modest -- until this season.
The 24-year-old began the year by earning a silver medal at the 2016 Nebelhorn Trophy and followed that with a fifth-place showing at the 2016 Finlandia Trophy, an event that featured such elite talents as Nathan Chen, Patrick Chan and Maxim Kovtun.
His most recent performance, though, was the best of his career.
With a fourth-place finish at the 2017 European Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Hendrickx performed two strong and artistic programs to gain the top short program score of his career. His final standing in the event was his best ever, and he became the first Belgian skater since 2009 to finish as high as he did.
Icenetwork spoke with Hendrickx about his recent success, his artistic approach to his programs, the difficulties of skating in Belgium and his future plans.
Icenetwork: Last month in Ostrava you achieved your best result at Europeans, finishing fourth. Tell us your impressions of that event and the personal meaning of this achievement.
Jorik Hendrickx: I try to never focus on the result too much, as it gives you unnecessary pressure. I learned to set realistic targets -- doing a clean short and free -- and to stay focused on myself. Eventually, the result is a combination of your result but also what the others do. I skated good and did the maximum I can do right now. It's a bit upsetting to realize that my combined points were good enough to win a medal last year, but I, nevertheless, surprised myself and was pleased with the performance.
Icenetwork: It seems like you've remained determined from the very beginning of this season, when you took silver at the Nebelhorn Trophy.
Hendrickx: Yes, the Nebelhorn Trophy was very successful. Normally, the start of the season is always slow and (there is) a lot of work until the major events. This year I felt more ready than ever, even though the summer was very intense. It wasn't very smooth, as I had to deal with a few minor injuries and some technical difficulties on the jumps.
Icenetwork: To what do you attribute your progress this season?
Hendrickx: I think the joy I have in skating. For a moment in my skating career, it became like a job...it was a terrible feeling. Now I'm enjoying every sore muscle again. I'm doing my job on the ice, but now I'm doing it with love and passion.
Icenetwork: You're made big strides since last season. Can you tell us about how you've made these improvements?
Hendrickx: I just love this sport! People notice my joy, so I try to translate that into my skating with every step and movement on the ice. I receive lots of compliments on my style of skating and about the quality and creativity.
Icenetwork: You have very emotional programs this season. Can you talk about how you've developed these?
Hendrickx: I'm not doing yet quads, as that work in progress is taking a bit longer than expected. I realized I cannot focus only on that and that I have to expand my skills in a different way. I started to work on myself as an artist, and since I admire skaters with great personalities and their own style, I realized that I wanted to be one of them in the hopes that someone will look up to me in the future. I opened myself up to develop those skills, and we chose theatrical programs.
Icenetwork: Your younger sister, Loena, began her first senior season with very good results, including a seventh-place finish in Ostrava. Does she gather inspiration from her brother?
Hendrickx: Normally, we would have skated together at Euros last year, but Loena got a major injury on her spine and was out for six months. We weren't sure she would come back to skating at all. Talents in Belgian figure skating don't get any support, so we had to support everything by ourselves, including the training and all things related to preparation and participation at the 2017 Europeans. I took care of funds, tried to find sponsors, organized special meetings and so on.
I think it's a very positive thing that we can train together. Skating in Belgium is very lonely, so it doesn't hurt to have company on the ice. We take care of each other very much.
Icenetwork: As the older brother, you most likely give her some suggestions and advice. How has that been received?
Hendrickx: When she was younger, I tried to be very involved. Now I'm less involved, as I have to focus on myself once we take the ice. Besides being her "manager," I try to help her out with technical problems or her mental preparation. She is now more mature and deals better with my feedback than in the past.
Icenetwork: You said that in Belgium there is no support for skating talents. How do athletes deal with this issue?
Hendrickx: Our federation doesn't have operational resources from the government. Volunteers keep our federation alive. Therefore, Belgian figure skaters don't receive any financial support. Only when you reach the Olympic level will you receive funds from the government, but just as an individual.
As I already said, until now my sister, Loena, financed everything on her own. A lot of Belgian talent disappears because of this. It's very hard to develop Belgian figure skating in general, but some individuals will survive and stand out like my sister and I. We took action, started crowdfunding and other similar activities, and worked really hard on the ice. A lot of skaters on our level in the world don't have to worry about money, but we do.
Icenetwork: You're studying sports marketing. Does your knowledge in this area apply to figure skating?
Hendrickx: Yes, it does. We work a lot on cases about sports and its products. I'm also developing marketing skills to apply in non-sport environments as well. The task you mentioned is a very hard one. Skating in Belgium is unknown, and we don't have a federation which has paid employees.
To make it my job? It's impossible. One option is to start coaching and help to develop the next generation of skaters. Hopefully, I can make a small contribution by developing a stable financial surface for the future talents. At the moment, I'm doing an internship at the All Sport Benelux distributor, where I research the growth of e-commerce in Belgium.
Icenetwork: Tell us about your goals for the future.
Hendrickx: The main goal is to keep healthy, enjoy every single minute of this sport and compete at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games with my sister. That's the ultimate dream! In July, I'll finishing my studies so I can focus solely on skating.
After that, we'll see!