Yuna Kim, often referred to as the “nation’s younger sister” (국민여동생), is one of the most revered and respected athletes in Korea. Citizens often unite around their televisions every four years to watch the Winter Olympics, waiting with baited breath as the judges’ scores for her routine are announced. Helaine Lee (11) was one among many Koreans that were awestruck by Kim’s performances–so much so that she decided to follow Kim’s footsteps and put on her own skates.
Though ice skating is popular amongst many younger children, most Koreans drop the hobby as they grow older, choosing to focus more on academics. Helaine, however, stuck with the sport, and has continued to skate since she was six.
“I chose to start ice skating 10 years ago, after I saw Yuna Kim’s senior debut,” Helaine said. “Her performance was really inspiring. As a young girl, Yuna Kim, whose talents were praised by the entire nation, became my role model. I looked up to her and wanted to be her. She made me want to one day become as respected as her. However, even though her initial performance is what made me first start skating, my love for the sport is what made me continue skating all these years.”
One of the things that Helaine loves about ice skating is the challenges it presents to her. Though her statement may seem paradoxical, it makes sense, as Helaine attributes her strong mentality and determination to skating. It is inevitable that one falls when practicing and performing on the ice. Through these trips to the floor, however, Helaine always finds something inside her to motivate herself to get up. Though there are times when she wants to just lay on the ground, her years of skating have taught her to get back up, despite the pain and the humiliation a bad fall can cause. Instead of focusing on the fall, Helaine has learned to focus on getting back up.
“I can apply the lessons I learned to many other aspects of my life,” Helaine said. “Because of ice skating, I know that I possess the strength to pursue my goals and dreams, whether they are related to skating, academics, or even just for my personal life. For example, if I have to complete a project at school, even if I’m tired from studying for a test the night before, I know I have the motivation and strength to push through and complete it to the best of my ability.”
To Helaine, ice skating is not merely a sport–she considers it an art form. As she is able to express herself through the different movements and music choices, Helaine finds it extremely gratifying to express herself through different themes and genres while she skates. For example in the recent competition she entered, The National Sports Festival where she met President Moon Jae-In, her team’s long program was inspired by the movie La La Land. Through this method of creative expression, Helaine hopes to continue to build both physical and mental stamina during her high school career.