Yu skates into new chapter

Singaporean figure skater Yu Shuran performing her free skate routine at the Makomanai Indoor Skating Rink in Sapporo yesterday. She scored 95.71 points for a 146.70 total to finish sixth on her Asian Winter Games debut.
Singaporean figure skater Yu Shuran performing her free skate routine at the Makomanai Indoor Skating Rink in Sapporo yesterday. She scored 95.71 points for a 146.70 total to finish sixth on her Asian Winter Games debut.PHOTO: REUTERS

Teenager finishes 6th at AWG and becomes first S'porean to qualify for world c'ships

In just a week, Yu Shuran went from what she described as her "two worst performances ever" to two that made the figure skater a history maker.

A stellar showing at the Asian Winter Games (AWG) - just her third senior-level competition - earned her a new personal best and a creditable sixth-place finish in a 24-strong field. It also made the 16-year-old the first Singaporean to qualify for the World Figure Skating Championships.

A clean skate during the short programme on Thursday had already given Shuran a dream start (50.99 points) on her debut at the quadrennial Games.

Nerves of steel in the free skate last night (95.71) at the Makomanai Indoor Skating Rink - despite a fall early on in the routine - saw her through to the end, giving her a berth at an event she has dreamt of appearing in since she started elite training more than six years ago.

The short programme, by definition, is the shorter of two routines in a figure skating competition. It features seven required elements and lasts not more than 2min 40sec. A free skate is four minutes for women at the senior level and can be made up of any combination of elements.

She told The Sunday Times from Sapporo, Japan yesterday: "I went through some serious struggles before coming to compete here. Training wasn't smooth and I didn't have confidence."

She travelled to Japan from South Korea, where she had competed at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, a top-level event that features many of the sport's powerhouses. She placed last out of 21 skaters there.

"I was pretty down and mad at myself after that," she added. "I wanted to fight back. I knew I was far off from qualifying (for the world championships) but I just told myself to fight for every single element."

Shuran, who is based in Beijing where her family lives, needed to meet the International Skating Union minimum of a technical element score of 27 in the short programme, as well as a technical element score of 47 in the free skate to qualify for the world championships. She posted 28.95 and 51.27 respectively.

Skating to a tune from the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby yesterday, matched aptly with a dress that carried a tinge of the flapper fashion of the 1920s, she saw out the rest of her routine with little fuss.

Her performances - including points for execution - combined for a total of 146.70 to smash her previous overall personal best of 130.12.

South Korean Choi Da Bin won the gold (187.54), Li Zijun of China the took silver (175.60) and Kazakhstan's Elizabet Tursynbaeva claimed the bronze (175.04).

Shuran's achievement is all the more notable, given she is still eligible for junior events and has little experience at the senior level.

She said: "This season, transitioning from junior to senior events, has come with its challenges for sure. But I didn't fear them."

While admitting going one step further to qualify for the Olympics would be "surreal", next month's world championships in Helsinki will remain her focus for now.

She said: "I don't want to go into the world championships focused on the Olympics. I'm just thrilled to have qualified for the world championships now... I have a lot of work to do when I get home to prepare."

Said Singapore Ice Skating Association president Sonja Chong: "This is a huge milestone for figure skating in Singapore. Shuran has done Singapore proud."

Added Shuran: "I hope it shows future skaters and the younger ones now that being from Singapore, from South-east Asia or a tropical country shouldn't hold you back from the sport."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 26, 2017, with the headline 'Yu skates into new chapter'. Print Edition | Subscribe