NORTHERN Ireland might seem a world away from Sochi but figure skater Jenna McCorkell insists her homeland will be very much in her mind as she takes to the Russian ice at the Winter Olympics.
As an 11-time British champion, McCorkell is no stranger to domestic success as the single most successful female ice skater ever to hail from Northern Ireland – last year’s win was her eighth straight.
But it is on the international stage where the 27-year-old has found success harder to come by, with highs of 14th at the World and European Championships since finishing 29th on her Olympic debut at Vancouver 2010.
Since that Olympic bow in Canada McCorkell’s fellow Northern Irish athletes have done all they can to put their country on the map.
Golfers Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy won three of the four majors on offer between 2010 and 2012, while brothers Peter and Richard Chambers as well as Alan Campbell all picked up rowing medals at the London 2012 Olympics.
And McCorkell is eager to get in on the act set by her countrymen, even if she acknowledges that it is easier said then done.
“The golfers are doing well Graeme and Rory and Darren Clarke and Graeme is just around the corner from me,” said McCorkell, who will compete in the historic first-ever Olympic figure skating team event as well as the ladies’ in Sochi.
“There are a lot from my town. I know Graeme, I don’t know Rory, I know Darren Clarke and the rowers as Alan’s parents live next door to my parents and the Chambers brothers’ family live next door to my granny.
“So all the rowers as well, so for such a small little town that we are all from there have been quite a lot of athletes from there.
“For the ladies’ event in Sochi, you have Kim Yuna, the Olympic champion from Vancouver, you have strong Japanese girls, and the Americans are strong too – Gracie Gold is outstanding.
“Everyone has got to do it on the day and everyone is capable.
“And you can’t forget about the Russians. At this year’s Europeans they were first and second in the ladies; first, second and third in the pairs; and second and third in the men’s.
“So they had medals everywhere so it will be tough but you never know what could happen on the day and I am going to give it my best shot.”
Unlike some of her rivals, McCorkell is yet to experience Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace after she failed to reach the figure skating’s Grand Prix Final late in 2012.
But her coach Simon Briggs was there and she is hoping his surveillance techniques will work wonders when she gets her second Olympic campaign underway.
“They had the Grand Prix Final in Sochi, my coach has been as he was the technical expert for the pairs event so he kind of took pictures and showed me everything to have a look,” he added.
“It looks quite different to Vancouver, I think there is not so much distance between things, so you can walk to everything which will be quite good if you want to pop in and see something, you do not have to take buses or anything.
“Every little helps so the quicker I can acclimatise myself with it all the better it is for me out on the ice.”
The British Olympic Association is the National Olympic Committee for GBR and NI. The BOA prepares the ‘Best of British’ athletes for, and leads them at, the summer, winter and youth Olympic Games. The BOA is dependent upon fundraising income to achieve its mission. www.teamgb.com @TeamGB