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28 February 2022, 12:51

After top-10 showings in Beijing, S. Korean figure skaters look to expand programs


SEOUL, 28 February (BelTA -Yonhap News). - Following top-10 finishes in their Winter Olympic debuts in Beijing this month, South Korean figure skaters You Young and Kim Ye-lim have both set out to add new, more challenging elements to their programs.

You, 17, won the women's singles competition in the high school division at the National Winter Sports Festival on Sunday, while Kim, 19, did the same in the college division.

You finished sixth at Beijing 2022 with 213.09 points, and Kim ranked ninth with 202.63 points. You's performance was the best by a South Korean female figure skater not named Kim Yu-na, the 2010 Olympic champion and the 2014 silver medalist. You and Kim are also the first pair of South Korean women to rank inside the top 10 at an Olympics.

But they aren't content with just being the best in the country. You said she will start working on quadruple jumps, while Kim will turn her focus on adding a triple axel to her routines.

"Because of injuries and other problems (brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic), I haven't been able to practice difficult jumps all that much recently," You said Sunday. "I used to work on quadruple salchow and lutz in the past, but not before the Olympics this year. After the end of this season, I will start practicing them again for future competitions."

With advanced techniques taking center stage over artistry in figure skating, attempting quadruple jumps, even for female figure skaters, will soon no longer be a matter of choice for top-end athletes. The current International Skating Union (ISU) judging system awards higher points to more difficult elements, and it comes down to simple math: land more quad jumps than others, and you will score more points.

In Beijing, Alexandra Trusova of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) had been in fourth place after the short program, but she ended up taking the silver medal after posting the highest free skate score thanks to her quadruple jumps.

Trusova attempted an eye-popping five quadruple jumps in her free skate. She landed only three of them cleanly and got called for a wrong edge on the takeoff of a quad flip and a quarter-turn short on the landing of a quad lutz.

Figure skaters can live by quads and die by quads. Another ROC athlete, Kamila Valieva, tumbled from first after the short program to fourth overall after putting up only the fifth-best score in the free skate. She attempted three quadruple jumps but didn't land any of it cleanly -- while performing under the cloud of a doping scandal.

Trusova, Valieva and the gold medalist from the ROC, Anna Shcherbakova, are collectively called the "Quad Squad" for their ability to land quadruple jumps. Shcherbakova landed her two quad flips cleanly en route to the top of the podium in Beijing.

You is currently the only South Korean female skater to attempt a triple axel, the most challenging triple jump that requires three and a half turns on a forward takeoff. Only a handful tried the jump at the Olympics. You didn't have enough rotations on it in both her short program and her free skate but managed to have clean landings both times despite skating with a badly swollen left ankle.

For the upcoming world championships, her last event of the season taking place in Montpellier, France, from March 23-26, You said she wants to polish up her current set of elements.

"I'd love to set a new personal best at the worlds," said You, whose career high is 223.23 points from the 2020 Four Continents. "I'll get my body ready and have a great finish to my season."

Kim, not as advanced as You, said her next step is to add a triple axel to her programs.

"After the Beijing Olympics, I decided I wanted to be more competitive," Kim said. "After the end of this season, I will go for a triple axel. I will start with the basics and go from there."

Kim said she felt her growth spurt was now behind her, which will allow her to push her limits further with the new jump.

When figure skaters in their early- to mid-teens experience a growth spurt, it may affect their balance and their ability to maintain a consistent axis of rotations on jumps.

"Before the Olympics, I wanted to play it safe and I was reluctant to challenge myself on new elements," Kim said. "But for the rest of my career, I will do whatever I want to do on the ice."

Kim, too, will participate in the world championships. In her world debut last year, Kim finished in 11th place.

She was fifth after the short program with a personal-best 73.63 points, but only had the 13th-best score in the free skate to tumble out of the top 10 overall.

"My goal is to crack the top 10 this time," Kim said.

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