Figure skater Denis Ten is not only a star in his country Kazakhstan, but he is also the descendant of a Korean independence fighter. The 16-year-old skater, currently performing in the 2010 SBS Bolshoi on Ice show in Seoul, is considered as promising as Olympic gold medalist Kim Yu-na. He is the great-great-grandson of famed Korean general Min Keung-ho, who fought against the Japanese army and police in the early 20th century.
Here on his fourth visit to Korea, Ten is popular among local skating fans for his boyish good looks. He also has talent, which he proved in 2008 by becoming the first figure skater from Kazakhstan to win gold in the Junior Grand Prix Final.
Ten first came to Korea in 2002 as a member of the silver-medal-winning Kazakhstan boys' choir in the World Choir Games held in the southern port city of Busan. His mother Oksana, who is a violin professor, began teaching him music while he was very young.
His second visit was as a figure skater to compete in the Junior Grand Prix Final in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province in 2008. In January this year he returned again to compete in the senior circuit of the Four Continents Championship in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, just before the Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Ten decided to participate in the 2010 SBS Bolshoi on Ice show, which is mainly composed of professional skaters, in order to spend more time in Korea. "I'd love to get to know my ancestor's country better, and I'd like to learn Korean as well," he said. He also hopes to improve his skills by skating alongside Russian figure skating legends like Igor Bobrin and 1984 Olympic gold medalists in ice dancing Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin.
"I first began skating at the age of five, and it was so fun that I skated for six hours nonstop," Ten said. "I think skating is my destiny." He relocated to Moscow for training in 2004, and has his programs choreographed by legendary Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova, who currently coaches Mao Asada of Japan. His ultimate goal is to win an Olympic gold medal like his role model, Kim Yu-na. He will perform in Korea until May 16.