NINE-times British figure skating champion Jenna McCorkell will go into next month’s European Championships in the best shape of her life - 12 months after nearly packing it all in.
The 25-year-old Coleraine skater reinforced her domestic dominance last week when successfully defending her British crown, extending her lead in the all-time list yet further over six-times winner and 1936 Olympic silver medallist Cecilia Colledge.
However, career-threatening injuries have tormented her over the last two seasons, forcing her to change her entire coaching staff in April after a bleak Christmas period of reflection.
“I have really been able to enjoy myself again because, to be honest, this time last year there was a huge chance I wouldn’t have competed anymore, or skated anymore,” she said.
“I thought about finishing, just because I was being plagued by injuries one after the other.
“I had approximately 36 injections in my foot from September to December, and that was just hell. I remember being at home at Christmas and I had so many problems and then the nail in my toe broke in half. It was an absolute nightmare.
“Three weeks after that I had the Euros, and I had almost not been on the ice. My confidence was absolutely draining and I was just at the point where I didn’t feel like doing it anymore. I was just so drained by it all.
“No-one was looking into why I was constantly getting injured.
“I thought if I wanted to continue, I needed to refresh everything. I am more than happy now, but last year I just wasn’t happy anymore. I wasn’t enjoying it like I should and I was just getting frustrated every day, and so was my coach. It just wasn’t fun. It wasn’t working and it was time to change. I couldn’t continue how I was.
“So then I found a whole new team of people to work with and they have been great.”
McCorkell says she now has no intention of quitting, and since tests revealed her back and the left side of her body were significantly weaker than the rest she has strictly followed a punishing training programme as she looks towards a second Olympic appearance in Sochi.
“There have been days when I have literally been carried from the gym off the running machine! It has been so intense and I have never worked so hard. I couldn’t have put one more minute into it than I already have,” she added.
“There have been some really horrible and gruelling moments, but I have done my best.”
The European Championships will be staged in Sheffield next year and McCorkell, 14th for the past two editions of the event, is increasingly optimistic she can improve on her career best eighth in 2008.
“I like to think I have still got more in me than what I have shown. I would like to put into competition what I have put into training, which, at the moment, is better than I have ever been,” she said.
“I am in the best shape I have ever been in and it is happening in training, so it is just putting it together in competition, which is the biggest challenge. But I am confident. I won’t give up until I show the performances that I am capable of.
“But I wouldn’t say I was going out for the top three. I would like to get to the top eight at least.
“If I can skate to my best in the short and free program I should be in the top ten, which I would love to do, but you just never know.”