Ice-skating: South Korean champ a Singapore-raised kid

Eleven-year-old You Young is South Korea's youngest-ever national figure skating champion.
Eleven-year-old You Young is South Korea's youngest-ever national figure skating champion.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

SEOUL • The latest sensation in figure skating grew up in Singapore.

South Korea yesterday hailed the emergence of You Young , after she became its youngest national champion at just 11 years of age - one year earlier than her heroine Kim Yu Na.

The tiny figure, just 1.43m tall, stood head and shoulders above the competition at Sunday's event with a flawless performance of athletic jumps and blurred spins.

"Figure skating genius," was the verdict of the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, while the biggest circulation daily, Chosun Ilbo, predicted that she could "rewrite the history of South Korean figure skating".

That history is dominated by Kim, a former Olympic and double world champion who was on hand to witness You's performance.

"She is even better than I was," said Kim, who won her first national championship at the age of 12 and remains one of South Korea's most admired sports personalities following her retirement after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. "I think her skills will improve further if she takes care and avoids injuries."

You was inspired to lace up her skates after watching Kim's gold medal winning routine at the 2010 Vancouver Games. But she first cut her teeth in Singapore, where she was raised. She trained under various coaches when she was here and competed in the Singapore national championships from 2011 to 2013.

Sonja Chong, president of the Singapore Ice Skating Association: "She was a guest skater at our Singapore National Figure Skating Championships and won her respective division. She was a promising skater who showed talent."

Young returned to South Korea with her mother three years ago and trains eight hours a day. "She is very young, but she has learnt how to overcome difficulties on her own," her mother said.

Despite winning the national championship, she will not be eligible to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, because of the 15-year minimum age bar which even her youthful jumps cannot overcome.


•Additional reporting by May Chen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'S. Korea champ a S'pore-raised kid'. Print Edition | Subscribe