The PyeongChang Olympics was a turning point for figure skater Kim Ha-nul. A solid performance in her Olympic debut has lifted her to one of the strongest post-Kim Yuna generation skaters with eyes on an Olympic medal in 2022.
The 15-year-old girl considers the PyeongChang Olympics the starting point for her skating career. She said she learned a lot while watching her world-class competitors.
“They earned high scores in spins, steps and the program component scores (PCS),” Kim told The Korea Times on March 2.
PCS reflects skaters’ skating skills, transitions, performances, composition and interpretation. “I think I should work hard on these elements,” she said.
Kim said she tries not to compare herself to the highest-performing skaters because she knows better than anyone else what she is good at and where she needs to improve.
“Each skater has her own strengths and skating skills,” she said. “I believe scores reflect how you skated. So after my performance, I try to look into what went wrong and how I can improve it.”
Kim said performing at the Olympics in front of cheering home fans was a privilege only athletes representing their countries can enjoy.
“I was fortunate because I was able to have my Olympic debut at home,” she said. “There were many home fans who cheered for me. Some skaters said they feel pressure when that happens. But to me, cheering home fans were encouraging, not a pressure.”
Spectators at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Feb. 23 roared as the 15-year-old skater completed a flawless performance in the free program in her Olympic debut.
The little tiny girl, standing 149 centimeter tall, held her fists tight. With her head down, she stayed on the ice for a while as tears of joy and relief rolled down her cheeks.
“I thought I made it,” Kim said. “I was emotional because several frustrating moments before the Olympics came across to me when I finished the free program. But I made it which made me feel proud of myself.”
Her mother Sun Su-min said she was in the stands of the ice arena when her daughter performed. But she said she couldn’t watch and only prayed for her daughter with her eyes closed. Figure skater-turned-analyst Kim Hae-jin said she felt for the little girl.
“She is just 15 years old. I know there were lots of frustrating moments she went through before the Olympics. The 15-year-old girl completed a clean performance after overcoming them,” the analyst said.
“I know she made enormous efforts to make it happen.” The analyst’s voice trembled as she sympathized with the youngest athlete who represented Korea at the Olympics.
Kim Ha-nul scored her personal best 121.38 points in the free program. Together with the short program she performed two days earlier, she pulled together 175.71 points at the Olympics. Her successful Olympic debut raised hope for her journey to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Before the Olympics, Kim was an underdog skater. She is one of the skaters called the “Vancouver Kids”_ a group of athletes inspired by legendary skater Kim Yuna to become figure skaters.
Kim Ha-nul was outshone by three skaters _ You Young, Lim Eun-soo and Kim Ye-rim _ who dominated the national championships.
The three young skaters are described by the media as Olympic medal favorites at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. They did not qualify for the PyeongChang Olympics due to their age.
Lim, the national champion of last year, proved her international competitiveness by finishing fourth at the 2017 International Skating Union Junior World Championships last March in Taipei, Taiwan.
You topped the 2018 KB Bank Figure Skating Championship with 204.68 points followed by Choi Da-bin and Kim Ha-nul. The top two skaters were to get their tickets for the Olympics.
Choi and Kim qualified for the Olympics but You, 13, does not qualify because of her age.
Kim had growing pains. “She was consistent but her scores in national championships were not strong enough,” her mom Sun Su-min said. “She had a hard time because of that.”
Sun said her daughter is small compared to other skaters and this physical trait is ironically the source of her strength as well as her weakness.
“Her rotations are great and she has strong jumping skills as her small tiny body makes it easier to do them. The same trait also causes her to reveal her limitations. I think her interpretation is weaker compared to other skaters. But I think she can improve it with more experience.”
Asked about her goal for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Kim said she has four years to go and lots of positive or negative things could happen before then.
“We never know what will happen tomorrow,” she said. “I hope I can make it. But there are still four years to go until the Beijing Olympics. So I will do what I can to improve my performance by then.”
– The Korea Times.