Header photo courtesy of Robin Ritoss
Brooklee Han spent most of last season dealing with an unfortunate injury that left her unable to compete at the Australian National Championships in December 2017. The 2014 Olympian and 2013 Australian National Champion bounced back and competed at the 2018 Four Continents Championships in January, where she finished 14th of 23 competitors. Last fall, she set three new ISU personal best scores in her two of her Challenger events, Autumn Classic International and Finlandia Trophy.
Han is ready for the new season. She recently spoke with Figure Skaters Online about her brand new program and goals for the 2018-19 season.
Figure Skaters Online (FSO): What are your thoughts on your performances during the 2017-2018 season? What were you most proud of? What were some of your challenges?
Brooklee Han (BH): Last season was definitely a tough one. I spent the majority of the season injured, fighting off an injury and having to adjust my training to deal with that. At first we thought it was some ligament damage in my ankle, but it turned out to be a stress fracture in my right callus bone. That was definitely hard, pushing through that. I wasn’t able to prepare for the Four Continents Championships the way I wanted to and obviously, I was disappointed to have to miss the (Australian) National Championships in December. But despite that, I was really happy with a lot of the performances I put out last season. I got a lot of new personal bests (at 2017 ISU Challenger events), which was great. I was really happy with both programs at Finlandia, and I was really proud of my short program at Autumn Classic (in Montreal) back in September. At Four Continents, I didn’t skate the way that I know I can and, with all that I was having to deal with in my training, I wasn’t able to prepare the way I normally would for an event. And despite that, I was extremely happy with the performances I put out under those circumstances.
FSO: How would you say your injury is now? Are you back to 100%?
BH: I definitely would say that I’m still kind of healing, but I’m training more normally and things are healing pretty well. I’m still being careful with the number of repetitions of jumps I do every day so that I don’t exacerbate it or re-aggravate the injury.
FSO: Moving on to the new season, what is your short program and who choreographed it?
BH: So for my short program, I’m keeping my “I Dreamed a Dream”/Les Miserables short program, which was choreographed by Evgeni Nemirovski, one of my coaches here in Euless (Texas). I love that program! It is so much fun to perform in front of an audience. I had some great performances of it last season but I know I can do it even better. I had some many people — fans, judges, officials from my federation, other coaches — come up to me and say, ‘You cannot get rid of that program for next season. You have to keep it.’ So of course, I’m going to keep that program.
FSO: And what about your free skate?
BH: My long program … I spent several weeks driving myself insane trying to find music. I had used my “Por Una Cabeza” program for two seasons and I really had grown into the character of that program and I liked that sassy character that I was getting to play so I was trying to look for something that was kind of similar to that. I was looking for music and looking for music and going nuts. I had “Somewhere” from West Side Story stuck in my head for like about four months. And one day, I was sitting at the computer, looking at YouTube, trying to find something and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I need to skate to a West Side Story medley. This is it.’ Evgeni and I had picked something out and were in the process of cutting it, but I just wasn’t in love so I was like, ‘We are going to scratch this plan and we are going to skate to West Side Story.’ I figured out which pieces I wanted to use. Obviously, I have an instrumental version of “Somewhere” in there. I also use pieces from the Overture and Prologue (from the original soundtrack of the 1961 film composed by Leonard Bernstein). It is a lot of fun. I have never done a medley before where the character changes throughout the program so that has been a really fun exercise for me. It’s definitely a program that I feel that I can grow with this season. With the character of Maria, I mean I’m not necessarily playing Maria, but she is the one I’m thinking about most in this program. She is such a strong, powerful young woman and so brave, and has that kind of sassy side to her as well. And the music obviously reflects that. So that is something that I’m really excited about. And Evgeni choreographed that program as well.
FSO: Is your program all instrumental?
BH: It is all instrumental. That was the tough thing to figure out what to do with it, but when I was trying to figure out how to put it together and with what sections I wanted, that seemed like (going all instrumental) the easiest way to go. Timothy LeDuc cut the music for me. It was definitely a joint effort. I was very picky. I was, ‘I want these 10 seconds, and then the next four you are cutting out. Then I want the next six, and then you are cutting out the next three.’ (laughs) I’m very appreciative of his patience with me and he did a phenomenal job. It sounds so good and I’m really excited for the program.
FSO: So you are skating to two Broadway programs this year. Did you think about this when you decided to keep your Les Miserables short program and then decided to skate to West Side Story?
BH: I kind of thought about it for maybe ten seconds (laughs) and I was like, you know what, I’m at the point in my career where and I have been in skating so long that I skate because I enjoy it and because I’m passionate about it. I’m not going to go out and skate to a piece of music that I don’t feel passionately about just because it is not going to work well. Yeah, I’m doing two Broadway shows, okay, it’s a little much but I love both programs. They are both a lot of fun to skate. I feel that the characters in both are so different so that if I look at it that way, it is not as big of a deal.
FSO: What are your goals for training this summer, on the technical side (jumps, new spins, etc.) as well as program component aspects?
BH: Technically, I’m more or less keeping my technical content the same this season because I really didn’t get to jump a lot from October to up until recently and trying to deal with injury and everything. Ideally, I have been working on double Axel-triple toe and I have a spot in the long program where, if I feel that it is getting consistent enough and my coaches feel it is looking good enough, we can put (the combination) in. The short program… I know if I can skate it well and I skate it clean that I could get upwards to 60 points with the current technical content, so I’m not too concerned about that. Program component-wise, I’m just trying to really get more into the characters of the programs, pay more attention to different nuances and details in the programs. With the long, one of the exercises that Evgeni has me do is to skate the sections of the program with the music changes but without the music. He says ‘I want to see the change of the music in your skating, I want to see the character change.’ So that has been something I have been really working on. It is not something I ever thought of having to deal with skating to a medley, but that has been a new challenge for me. It has been a lot of fun and I feel that if I show those changes as well, then will definitely help boost my component score.
FSO: What club competitions will you be doing this summer?
BH: I will be doing Cannon Open in Farmer’s Branch, Texas (July 13-14). I will do both programs there. I did my short program at Broadmoor last month.
FSO: What are your goals for this season?
BH: This season, I just want to continue improving my scores. I want to put out more programs that I’m happy with and that get people excited about my skating and about my performance. That is kind of what I enjoy most about skating — the performance aspect of it and bringing people into my little world and telling a story through my program and through my skating. Ideally, I would love to get to the World Championships again; it has been a few seasons and I would love to get back there. That’s really my biggest goal. Otherwise, just keep progressing and keep skating good, solid programs that I get off the ice and feel proud of.
BH: I am taking it all one season at a time. I have been so fortunate to have such an incredible career and an incredibly long career on the international scene. I still love skating and I love performing, but I’m also preparing to get into that next phase of life. Obviously, when I’m done competing, I would want to stay involved in the sport. I’m definitely looking ahead to future ventures as well.
FSO: Speaking of future ventures, how is school going?
BH: I will be going part-time this school year to Southern Methodist University in Dallas. I would like to pursue a journalism degree. I was doing German studies and international relations when I was at Wesleyan (University in Connecticut) so I would like to complete a minor in that. I did school full-time and competed internationally for two years (before moving to Texas). It was a good experience. (laughs) It was a good lesson in time management, but it was completely exhausting and isolating as well. I really don’t want to do that anymore. I want to enjoy my skating. When I decide to go back to school full-time, I want to enjoy my experience and I want to be involved.
FSO: Are you still writing for International Figure Skating (IFS) magazine as an intern?
BH: Yes I am!
FSO: When did you get started with IFS magazine and what articles are you working on?
BH: I want to say I got started with IFS in November of 2016, so about 18 months. During the competition season, I obviously I don’t do as many pieces. One of the assignments I got to do while I was injured this year was to interview Bradie Tennell (2018 U.S. Champion and Olympic team bronze medalist) right before Nationals, which was great. I had been with her at Broadmoor and then Philly (competitions) in the summer season and I saw her then and I was like, ‘Bradie is going to do some big things this year if she keeps going like this.’ Getting to interview her was great. And then her winning Nationals and making the Olympic team, that was a great story to kind of follow all season as a journalist. So that was a lot of fun. I have interviewed my coach, Peter Cain, and his sister, Liz, over Skype. Liz called in over Skype and I sat with Peter and I interviewed them for a piece coming up. That was a lot of fun. Obviously, I have known both Peter and Liz for quite a while, but getting to learn more about their story was a lot of fun.
[Editor’s Note: To read Brooklee Han’s IFS article on last month’s Peggy Fleming Trophy, click here.]
FSO: Any off-season highlights so far and/or fun plans for the summer, besides training?
BH: For the most part my off season has been, and will be, spent training. In early May I was invited last minute to do a show at the Cleveland Skating Club with my training mate, Jimmy Ma, and Keegan Messing. I do not get to do shows very often and it was a lot of fun to perform. The crowd was great and I really enjoyed getting to be part of CSC’s show! We had a little cookout for the Fourth of July earlier this week with some friends from the rink. We were able to see the town fireworks from our backyard which was awesome! In August I am going back up to Connecticut to visit my dad; otherwise, I’ll be here working, training and preparing for the new season.