SEOUL, 27 March (BelTA -Yonhap News). - Despite her recent international success, South Korean figure skater Lee Hae-in still had bouts of self-doubt heading into last week's world championships in Japan.
Having emerged with a silver medal from the annual competition, Lee said Monday she is a far more confident athlete.
"There were times when I had doubts about myself, but I learned at this competition that I can do so much on the ice," Lee told reporters at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul after returning from the International Skating Union (ISU) World Figure Skating Championships.
"I feel rewarded for not giving up after a slow start to this season," the 17-year-old added.
With a personal-best total of 220.94 points, Lee became the first South Korean figure skater to win a world championship medal since Kim Yu-na won gold in 2013.
The silver capped off the most successful season of Lee's career. In February, Lee won the gold medal at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, open to skaters from non-European continents.
In winning the Four Continents, Lee set her then personal best with 141.71 points and broke that by nearly six points at the worlds with 147.32 points.
"Before the start of my free skate this time, I told myself, 'Just skate like you did at the Four Continents,'" Lee said of a little pep talk to herself. "When I landed the triple flip early on in the program, I got the sense that I was going to have a good skate."
Lee said she was at first taken aback by the sheer size of the crowd at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, but it didn't take long for her to settle down.
"I felt so fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to perform in front of so many people," Lee said. "I was a bit jittery at first, but once my name was called, I was pretty calm."
Lee just missed out on qualifying for last year's Beijing Winter Olympics, with two older skaters, You Young and Kim Ye-lim, representing South Korea. A little over a year later, Lee has surpassed both, with You having been slowed by injuries and Kim struggling at the worlds en route to an 18th-place finish.
Lee denied that not making the Olympics gave her extra fuel and added she hadn't yet started thinking about the next Winter Olympics in three years' time.
"Missing the Olympics was one thing, but I still had to focus on performing well this season. I was determined to showcase as much as I could on the ice," Lee said. "Right now, I am trying to take it one season at a time. There are other important competitions aside from the Olympics, and I will try to skate well at those events."