Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Weekly Op-Ed: The next big figure skating super-power is...Korea?

You're scratching your head right?

I wouldn't have even entertained the idea until this past week when I watched the 2009 Four Continents Cup, in person, in Vancouver.

We all know Yu-Na Kim is amazing, but a single competitor does not a figure skating super-power make. It takes lots of skaters from a country being consistent over time to be called a skating super-power. Some of the current super-powers include the U.S., Japan, Russia, and Canada. These countries always have top level competitors (not necessarily in all disciplines) on a consistent basis.

So back to my thought...why Korea? I'll tell you why. In addition to Yu-Na Kim there were three other Korean competitors. Hyeon-Jung Kim finished 14th amongst the women and Na-Young Kim finished 16th amongst the ladies. Min-Seok Kim finished 19th in the mens field.

Interesting side note, at the competition, one fan had a sign that said 'Kim' and a picture of the Korean Flag...that sign was versatile!

Apart from Yu-Na's win, rather unimpressive results. But what was impressive was the Korean teams' attention to performance. When many of the other lower ranked competitors finished their programs, they just kind of shrugged, smiled, bowed and left the ice. The Korean competitors, you could tell, were not at all pleased when they didn't skate well. They all watched each others performances to learn, critique, improve. Young Min-Seok Kim, heroically in my mind, attempted a Triple Axel (the only person in his skating group to do so) in his free skate to try whatever he could to place higher. These guys want so badly to be good!

The Korean team is growing. Every season, more and more competitors are coming from Korea. The number of skaters from Korea that compete internationally has almost doubled in just three years.

And they have a bright and shining star guiding them in Yu-Na Kim. She is inspiring a new generation of skaters much like Chen Lu did in China in the 1990s.

You might think me a bit off here, but I think in the next five years or so, the Republic of Korea will be a nation to contend with as far as figure skating goes.

Min-Seok's SP from the Four Continents Cup...perhaps a little peek at the future?


wooriyuna said...

Thanks for an interesting read. I, too, think Korea will become a bigger force in this sport. I can't help but look at the boom in golf set off by Se Ri Pak. Ten years later, LPGA and Korea are almost hand in hand. I predict it will take a little longer to see more figure skaters like Yuna coming from Korea since figure skating takes more years of training than golf.

Aaron said...

Exactly...I've never seen a Nation work so hard collectively to achieve big things. The best is yet to come for Korea.