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Last Updated: Friday, 21 December 2007, 18:17 GMT
Jenna's big year
By John Haughey
BBC Sport

Jenna McCorkell
Jenna McCorkell won the Belgian women's title last month
2008 promises to be a memorable year for Coleraine ice skater Jenna McCorkell - on and off the ice.

The 21-year-old is being tipped for a top-10 finish at the European Championships in late January after producing impressive pre-Christmas form.

If all goes to plan, the four-times British champion will then compete at the World Championships in Gothenburg.

Probably topping it all will be her wedding in Coleraine on 17 May when Jenna ties the knot with boyfriend and this year's European men's bronze medallist Kevin Van Der Perren.

"We're having fun planning the wedding and there's still a lot of stuff to do - or should I say a lot of stuff for my mum to do while we're away all over the world," Jenna told BBC Sport.

With a couple of injury-affected years thankfully, appearing to be behind her, McCorkell has shown signs this season of making a significant move up the European and world rankings.

She achieved a fine third place in her first competition of the season in Bratislava and then produced a lifetime's personal best when winning the Belgian Championships.

"Last season didn't go as well as I'd hoped but this year everything seems to be back on track again," says Jenna in matter-of-fact fashion.

She has the nicest jumps in the world in ladies figure skating

Kevin Van Der Perren

Her fiance is probably best placed to judge her early season form and the Belgian star does nothing to downplay expectations.

"She can definitely move up the rankings," says the 25-year-old.

"I've always told her, and not just because she's my girlfriend, that she has the nicest jumps in the world in ladies figure skating.

"They are big and high and thorough and sometimes even the best skaters in the world have bad jumps.

"She can spin, she's elegant on the ice. She looks nice on the ice, she's fast so she has everything to make it.

"I think she can easily do top 10 in the (2008) Europeans."

An outstanding free programme at last year's Europeans in Warsaw moved her up from 21st after the short programme to 15th overall - one place below her best finish of 14th in 2004.

Jenna acknowledges that the Warsaw event was a crucial moment in her career.

"That was a big, big competition for me because I hadn't competed in such a major competition for a long, long time because of my (back) injury.

"I had one mistake in the short programme which left me in 21st place.

Kevin Van Der Perren
Belgian Kevin Van Der Perren will marry McCorkell in May

"After that, I went into the free programme just telling myself to stay focused and I ended up finishing 11th in that which was a big boost for me. It has helped me a lot."

A foot injury meant Jenna had to miss the World Championships a few weeks later but thankfully she's had no such problems this season.

"The back injury was long-term frustration.

"After that I had the foot problem so I was really getting irritated but I had to do what was right at the time and just rest."

To ensure her place in Zagreb, Jenna will have to claim her fifth British title in early January when her main rival will be Canadian-born Vanessa James.

"I've got the points to go (to the Europeans and the Worlds) but they could turn around and send somebody else. You can never be 100 per cent guaranteed until you are on the plane."

However, realistically it would be a major surprise if McCorkell isn't in action in Zagreb.

At last year's Europeans, Van Der Perren landed his first ever quad jump in a major championships during a sensational free programme to move up into third place.

Jenna has high hopes for her husband-to-be and believes he is a potential gold medallist at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"He's up there with the top three or four in the world now. Hopefully he will show his real stuff in Vancouver."

Jenna is now coached by Van Der Perren's coach Vera Vandecaveye in Belgium after moving there from her previous base in Coventry in 2006.

"It took a little while for it to gel together after I moved to Belgium but everything seems to be falling into place now," acknowledges Jenna.

McCorkell upbeat for 2008 season
28 Nov 07 |  Other sport...
McCorkell takes 15th in Europeans
27 Jan 07 |  Other sport...
McCorkell finishes 22nd in Worlds
19 Mar 05 |  Other sport...
McCorkell takes 16th in Europeans
29 Jan 05 |  Other sport...
McCorkell wins British title
06 Dec 04 |  Other sport...
McCorkell finishes in 14th
07 Feb 04 |  Other sport...

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