REDDING, Conn. – Brooklee Han started out slowly as a figure skater. In the few past years, however, the Redding resident and Joel Barlow High School senior has jumped to the international stage and harbors hopes of representing Australia in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Han, 17, heads into an important two-month stretch in her quest to represent Australia, which is the homeland of her father. She will compete in the Four Continents Championships in Osaka, Japan, beginning Feb. 6. After that is the World Junior Championships, beginning Feb. 25 in Milan, Italy.
Depending on how Han fares in those two events, she could get an invitation to compete in the Senior World Championships in London, Ontario, beginning March 10.
“Getting to the Senior Worlds is the main objective,’’ Han said. “I definitely feel like I have a good chance to get there. If I go out and skate like I have in practice, I think the scores are attainable.”
Han’s development has hastened since starting with coach Serhii Vaypan in 2007. She began skating as a 5-year-old at the Brewster, N.Y., Ice Arena. At age 12, her mother, Pinky, encouraged her to attend a weeklong camp at the International Skating Center of Connecticut in Simsbury. It changed her career.
“There’s not a lot of freestyle ice time or high-level coaches in this area,’’ Han said. “After one week there, everything kind of clicked. I ended up working with Serhii and went from a single axel to landing triples. In October of 2009, I was landing triple jumps and won the New England Regional championship, and since then have been competing internationally. The first six years or so were pretty slow. I’m thankful I have Serhii as a coach.”
Han said she had to relearn everything when she started with Vaypan. “I definitely took some time,’’ she said. “There was definitely a difficult period. I was able to push through it. I could see how much better my jumps were becoming.”
Now, Han is Australia’s top female skater. The country is better known for its medal haul in the Summer Olympics but is up-and-coming in winter sports.
“Australia does not have the history of the United States or England or Europe in figure skating, but the winter sports are gaining a lot of support,’’ Han said. “It has really been progressing. The skiers and snowboarders have been doing really well. I have the same sense of pride representing Australia as if I was representing the United States.”
Han’s father, Anthony, was a top junior equestrian in Australia, and Brooklee also has horsemanship skills. She rides occasionally in the summer, but her competitive days ended when she devoted her attention to figure skating.
“I hope to do it again in the future,’’ she said. “I’ve been riding since I was very little. I have a fat pony that I’ve had since I was 4, but I don’t get to ride too much. I ride a lot more in the summer. I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s like muscle memory.”
Han plans to attend Wesleyan University but could defer for a year to concentrate on skating. The goal is to qualify for the Winter Games next year in Sochi, Russia. The next few weeks will go a long way toward determining whether she gets there.
“That’s my ultimate goal,’’ Han said. “We’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t happen this time, I’ll also consider trying to get to the 2018 Games in South Korea. Getting to the Olympics with the opportunity to represent Australia would be a dream come true.”