‘Figure skating genius’ You Young, 11, captivates South Korea as national champion
Seoul // South Korea has hailed the emergence of a new figure-skating prodigy, after she became the youngest ever national champion at just age 11 years – a year earlier than her heroine Kim Yu-Na.
You Young, a tiny figure at just 1.43m, stood head and shoulders above the competition at Sunday’s event with a flawless performance of athletic jumps and blurred spins.
“Figure skating genius,” was the verdict of the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, while the biggest circulation daily, Chosun Ilbo, predicted that she could “rewrite the history of South Korean figure skating”.
That history is currently dominated by Kim Yu-Na, the former Olympic and double world champion who was on hand to witness You’s performance.
“She is even better than I was,” said Kim, who won her first national championship at the age of 12.
“I think her skills will improve further if she takes care and avoids injuries,” said Kim, who remains one of South Korea’s most admired sports personalities following her retirement after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Young was first inspired to lace up her skates after watching Kim’s gold medal winning routine at the 2010 Vancouver Games, a performance she recorded and re-watched dozens of times a day, she said.
Having been raised in Singapore, You returned to South Korea with her mother three years ago and trains eight hours a day.
“She is very young, but she has learned how to overcome difficulties on her own,” You’s mother said.
You is currently trying to master the triple axel, the highest-value triple jump which only a handful of women skaters have landed in international competition.
“I practised the triple axel ahead of this season but it lacked perfection,” You said. “I’m planning to give it another try after this season,” she added.
Despite winning the national championship, she will not be eligible to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, because of the 15-year minimum age bar which even her youthful jumps cannot overcome.
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