There are lots of people who recognize Yu-Na Kim’s passion and effort as a figure skater. She is well known to people as a skater who has a will strong enough to get up one hundred and one times if she falls one hundred times. But have you ever thought about other skaters who tried really hard outside the spotlight? Maybe most people haven’t. So, I would like to introduce Ji-Hoon Shin, a figure skater who can tell us the happiness and pain of a skater’s life. Currently, she is not competing, but she tried hard when she was on the ice. So let’s listen to this skater’s story now.
Q. Out of every possible sport, why did you choose figure skating?
The reason why I decided to figure skate is that I could feel achievement as I learnt more. The point that I could perform various skills with just one pair of skates seemed really attractive to me. You can start figure skating from just starting to skate backwards on the ice, and later on, you can even do spins. There is a skill called the “Triple Salchow.” When you learn how to do this spin, you will be able to perform much harder skills with ease. Like this, I started figure skating because I liked to achieve various skills one by one.
Q. What do you think is the charm of figure skating?
At first, I felt the main charm was achievement, but later, it transformed into a huge movement of the heart or impression. The true charm of figure skating is in its influence on others. There is a big difference between the audience and the skaters when they watch the same 3 to 4 minute routine. Audiences just focus on the moments of the routine, but skaters can feel the one year of preparation time of that it takes to perform for just 3 to 4 minutes. It’s because they can catch the one skater’s passion and that athlete’s one year of preparation through one single skate. From a skaters’ point of view, figure skating is a sport that needs endurance. Regardless of how many times the skater falls or makes a mistake during the routine, it’s a routine that requires a skater to demonstrate one year of preparation.
Q. What are some difficulties that skaters feel?
In Korea, outside of Taereung Training Center, most of ice rinks are opened for ordinary people. So, skaters can use ice rinks only in the early morning or late at night when people no longer use it. Moreover, hockey teams and short track skaters also share the ice with figure skaters. So, the competition for who gets ice time is extreme. Many skaters suffer from weak environmental problems like this. Exercising is already hard enough, but what makes the skaters to feel even worse is that they have no space to practice. Moreover ice rinks only for skilled skaters are placed in cold undergrounds. As you develop your career, you can then go to field training. Through field training, you can exercise in good ice rinks with much support. Thus, Korean figure skaters practice in much worse conditions than counterparts on other countries.
Q. How do skaters practice and what kind of skills do they practice?
Usually, it is divided into an on-ice practicing and an off-ice practicing. Literally, an on-ice practice is when we perform skills on the ice and off-ice practices means practice on the ground. Surprisingly, an off-ice practice is much harder than on-ice practices. This is because skaters have to develop their physical strength in case of variables. You can’t be a good skater by just skating well. For example, in order to gain muscle and quick-wire power, skaters do off-ice training according to their needs. Furthermore, if they want to gain expressive power, they train in traditional dances. If they need flexibility, they also do ballet. There are lots of off-ice training routines such as health, Pilates and stretching. In one-day practicing process, you usually wake up at 4 am in the morning and go to an ice rink and train on the ice. Then, when you come back to an ice rink after finishing school work around lunch time, you do an off-ice training. Late at night, you usually practice the hard skills on the ice.
Q. What is your most memorable routine? Please tell me why it is the most memorable for you.
My most memorable routine was the 2012 Asian Trophy. That was my first worldwide competition. I got bronze medal at that time. It was memorable because I got a good score even though I hadn’t trained for a long time and I could hang around with my peers when I had free time. Usually, I was alone because I had to practice. So, I didn’t have any special memories with my peers. I went to school, but I had to leave school early for practices. So, the world-wide competition felt like just one long travel with my peers. I could enjoy and focus on the competition with much pressure on my mind.
Q. For figure skaters, what does the skater, Yu-na Kim, mean?
The skater, Yu-na Kim, comes to the skaters as ‘Hope’. I thought many times to myself, ‘that kind of opportunity can take place even when Korea has a very bad conditions and insufficient support for figure skating’. I’m so glad that people’s attention and support have been captured by figure skating, thanks to Yu-na Kim. So, as the number of skaters has increased, the amount of time and duration of time that we could practice on the ice has also increased. Also, the number of gala shows and spectators coming to watch the shows have increased. Literally, she created something out of nothing in culture as well as in scores. So, she is ‘hope’ to us.
Q. Which part of the body do skaters hurt often and what is an occupational hazard or common pain for skaters?
Many people think skaters would hurt their ankles, but it’s not true since skate shoes hold ankles very tight. The most common injury is the joints such as pelvis, knees and waist. Also, skaters have the fate of having rehabilitation and physical therapy every day because the more they skate, the flatter their feet become. Some of the worst injuries are when skaters fall on their jaws or when they get cuts from skate blades. As for occupational hazards, I hate cold winter. Because the places I go for practice are always cold too.
Q. What do you want to say to young figure skaters, and what is your upcoming goal?
I want to say just enjoy this moment. I know figure skating is so hard to enjoy because it’s a sport that we move hard with our body. But after retiring, I realized that a lot of time had been given to me at that time. There were lots of fun things to enjoy, but I didn’t know it because I was so tired. I want to say that there is so more time given to you than you actually think, so just focus on your practices and work with a relaxed mind. Lastly, I am a singer right now. So, I want to try my best in the field of music. If I turn back to figure skating, I want to be a member of a figure skating team called Synchronized.
If figure skaters’ tears fall on ice, it will melt the ice. But what they really must melt is their tired hearts. Please try to feel their passion even in poor environments. I hope there will be more students who will give them big applause.
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