The next generation of figure skaters inspired by Olympic champion Kim Yu-na are finally starting to reach their potential on the world stage.
Kim Hae-jin won the ladies title at the Sencila Bled Cup on Saturday during an ISU-sanctioned Junior Grand Prix event in Slovenia with 147.30 points, narrowly edging out Barbie Long of the U.S. who earned 147.19 points.
It was Kim's first victory at a junior GP, and the first time that a Korean skater has pocketed such a title since Kim Yu-na. Meanwhile, at the previous leg in Istanbul, Turkey, Park So-youn finished second, flashing the promise of the Korea’s maturing figure skaters.
Kim and Park are being touted as the leading figure skaters who may one day match the feats of Kim Yu-na, but they still have a considerable amount of fine-tuning to do in order to be in contention for medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea.
Kim Hae-jin's personal best as recognized by the ISU is 149.71 points, which she set at the 2012 Junior World Championships. Park's personal best is 144.77, which she posted in Turkey last month.
However, this still puts them far behind the personal bests of the current leading batch of junior skaters, while also trailing the records set by Kim Yu-na. Yu-na conquered the junior circuit in the 2005-6 season by winning five competitions including Junior Grand Prix events, the Junior Grand Prix Final, and the Junior World Championships with an average of 168 points. She then advanced to the senior circuit the following season.
Yu-na also seized gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with a record score of 228.56 points.
The world's top-ranked junior figure skater at present is Russia's Elena Radionova. She nailed both Junior Grand Prix events she has taken part in this season with scores of around 180 points, and now looks like a shoe-in to win the series. She has also already secured her berth in the final, which pits the six highest-scoring skaters against each other.
This year's Grand Prix Final for both junior and senior skaters will be held in December in Sochi, Russia, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Kim Hae-jin could still qualify as she has earned 22 points from two competitions -- seven points from a fifth-place finish in Austria, and 15 points from her win in Slovenia.