Kevin van der Perren has already surpassed the records of Belgium’s best skaters. He was ninth in the 2006 Olympic Games, eighth in the World Championships in 2005, third at the 2007 European Championships, and won (the silver medal at) Junior Worlds in 2002. His medal at Europeans was the first for Belgium since 1947, while his win at Junior Worlds was the first win for Belgium in that event.
His 2007-08 programs are power packed. In the short, he does a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop, triple axel and triple lutz. In the long, van der Perren opens with a quadruple toe loop, followed by a triple axel and triple flip. Then late in the program, he does a double axel-double toe, triple salchow-triple toe loop, and triple lutz-triple toe before finishing with a triple loop and triple toe loop. He has completed a triple-triple-triple combination in competition and landed a quadruple loop in practice.
This season, van der Perren has already medalled thrice. He began by winning the Otto Nepela Memorial in Bratislava, where he was second in 2004 and 2005. Then he finished third at the Finlandia Trophy and second at Skate Canada in Quebec, his second Grand Prix silver medal. He had won a silver once previously at Trophee Lalique in 2003. The 25-year-old has come close to the podium thrice, placing fourth at Skate America in 2005 and 2006 and at Trophee Eric Bompard Cachemire this season. The medal at Skate Canada was made more remarkable by the fact that he has been beset by injuries, but he couldn’t overcome a chest virus to medal in Paris.
“I did the Italian tour this summer for three weeks, then I was off the ice with injuries a long time,” he said. “I’ve had a back injury since November 2005 that’s kept me out of the last two Worlds. I was really mad that I couldn’t go to Worlds last season. Up until a week before Worlds, everything was clear, then I slipped doing back crossovers and fell into the barrier and that was it. I was off the ice until the end of April and didn’t know what to do because of the pain. But Jenna (McCorkle, the British senior ladies champion who is his fiancÈe), convinced me to continue and I started back up in June.”
“Practice has been going great,” he continued. “I’ve been doing clean run-throughs. But my programs have been a complete and utter disaster, especially in the short. To be honest, it was probably the music. The first program I used this season was great if everything worked right, but if you missed an element, it was a complete mess. I actually skated pretty clean in Finland. I only missed the loop, but I was too far behind to make it up. I may have to try some new methods of preparation, like doing no warm-ups before my on-ice warm-up. Maybe that will help me stay focused.”
He choreographed his own new short program to “Xotica” by Rene Dupere. “I had no time to go and get a new program after Bratislava and Finlandia, so I did it myself,” he said. “I did it for the first time the week before Skate Canada as a show act on the Belgian version of ‘Dancing on Ice’. It was completely live with no warm-up and it went great. I also did a show program the year before when they had a Belgium versus Holland program, but no way would I compete on the show. It’s mostly for ice dancers.”
Yuri Bureiko choreographed van der Perren’s long program to music from the soundtrack of “Lawrence of Arabia” by Maurice Jarre. “I was happy with Diane Goolsbey,” van der Perren said, “but when she moved to North Carolina, it was just too hard to go there just to see choreography.”
Both of the programs were new this season. “The long program was based on a program that Nikolai Morozov made for me in 2004,” van der Perren continued. “I did Skate Canada with it in 2004, but I needed to skate to it when I was more mature so I got something else for the rest of the season. Now I really like it.” Although he uses several gala programs, his favorite is “Tango de Roxanne” from “Moulin Rouge.” “I always have that on my laptop,” he added.
Vera Vandecaveye coaches van der Perren who trains in Belgium and Coventry, England. “Ice is ridiculously expensive in Belgium,” he noted, “so we spend some time in Coventry where we get better ice.” He works for four hours a day, six days a week when he can. “Some days, the pain is so bad It’s impossible to jump,” he said. “Most days I can just push through it. If you’re in a competition, you can also push yourself to do it. Some doctors have recommended surgery, but they can’t guarantee it would help. I’d have to be off the ice for seven months and by then, your career is over.”
“When I’m finished competing, I won’t stay in skating, but I’d like to run something myself,” he noted. “I can work for my brother’s construction company when I quit, but maybe I’ll do something else.”
“Jenna and I bought a house and we’re rebuilding it already,” he continued. “We don’t do much of anything else except watch movies and go to Disneyland. We have an annual pass so we just jump in the car and go and leave everything else behind.”