December 29, 2012 08:22
Olympic champion Kim Yu-na's rise to the pinnacle of world figure skating has spawned a generation of talented young skaters with stars in their eyes.
Kim Hae-jin and Park So-youn have both started making it onto the podium at international competitions as they aspire to become the next Kim Yu-na.
And now the country has a promising young male skater in the form of 16-year-old Kim Jin-seo, who won a bronze medal at the International Skating Union-sanctioned Junior Grand Prix in Austria in September.
As he did not take up figure skating until reaching the sixth grade of elementary school, Jin-seo is considered a late starter. But he proved a fast learner, and as his successes piled up he was selected to the national team after winning the national championships in January. This year he cemented his status as Korea's top-ranked male skater, and earned a berth to compete in the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Japan this coming February. He has achieved all this in the last four years.
When he was very young, Jin-seo suffered from a severe case of psoriasis. He took up a variety of sports -- wushu, taekwondo, swimming, and inline skating -- to make himself healthy and physically strong. He started figure skating when his mother took him to a local ice rink at the recommendation of a doctor who said it would be good for his skin complaint for him to exercise in a cool place, as sweating can exacerbate the disease. He was able to learn the skating techniques quickly thanks to his muscular build, and he soon showed a talent for jumping.
Jin-seo now practices at Taeneung Ice Rink with Olympic gold medalist Kim Yu-na, who he describes as a role model and mentor. "There are no male skaters here who have as much experience as her, and I admire everything about her," he said.
To prepare for giving interviews in English, Jin-seo is taking English lessons twice a week from a Korean-Canadian teacher who used to teach Yu-na.
His primary goals are qualifying for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and winning a medal at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea.
"I want to let the world know that Korean men's figure skating is a force to be reckoned with," he said.
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