REDDING, Conn. – Redding figure skater Brooklee Han started skating age 5, but it has only been in the past three years that she thought reaching the Olympics was an attainable goal.
On Thursday, Han, 18, will march in the opening ceremonies in Sochi, Russia, with her teammates from Australia. She will compete Feb. 19 in the ladies short program, with the free program scheduled for Feb. 20. The competition will be the end result of Han's steady ascent on the world's figure skating ladder.
“We started taking it step by step,’’ Han said before she left for Russia. “We’d get those ideas on what we could try. We thought if I could get my triples, I could go and represent Australia. That came and I think last season, the possibility of me going to Sochi came into my mind.”
Han’s growth as a skater is reflected in her marks. In 2011, she finished 21st at the World Junior Championships with a total score of 106.98. She was 23rd out of 30 skaters in the short program. In 2012, she did not even reach the finals at the World Junior Championships.
But last year, Han was 12th at the International Skating Union's Four Continents Championships with a score of 134.90 points. That progress continued this year as she finished fifth at Nebelhorn Trophy at 147.16 points and won the Volvo Open in November, her first victory in International competition, with 151.76 points.
She won the Australian figure skating title in December with a total of 161.42, the highest score of her career. She finished 14th last month at the Four Continents with a score of 150.17, her highest in an ISU event.
“I wanted to see how far I could raise my technical scores,’’ Han said. “They slowly started to improve. Going into this season and Nebelhorn, I was confident that if I skated to my potential I could get one of the spots for the Olympics. I just took it step by step the whole time.”
Even after clinching the Olympic spot for Australia at Nebelhorn, there was no guarantee she would represent the country. The decision was in the hands of the figure skating authority in Australia.
“I was proving myself and showed that I deserved to be at the senior level and competing at that level,’’ she said. “I had no control of the outcome of their decision. I could only control what I can control. I continued to focus on myself and competing.”
Han did not learn officially until last month that she would be going to the Olympics. “I tried not to get my hopes up, so I wouldn’t be disappointed if it went the other way,’’ she said.
Han traveled to Russia with her mother, Pinky,who has been with her for the entire ride through this unlikely journey. Han’s father is a native of Australia, which is how she has citizenship.
Han enjoyed a hometown sendoff from her former classmates at Joel Barlow last week. For the next two weeks, she will savor a one-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I always expected it to be a difficult journey,’’ she said. “There have been points and times where you don’t think it’s going to happen. It’s been one of my big goals. I just want to keep positive and skate my best. You never know what’s going to happen.”