Less than two years into former Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim’s retirement, South Korea may have found another young prodigy as the heir apparent to the women’s figure skating throne. Eleven-year-old You Young became the youngest figure skater ever to claim South Korea’s national championship last month, and now talk has turned to whether the budding phenom can usurp Kim’s title as the country's all-time best.
Hailed as a "figure skating genius," Young took up skating six years ago after watching her idol Kim claim gold at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. since she’s shown skills and bravado unexpected from anyone her age.
Young has been keeping up a hectic six-hour training regiment as well as home schooling by her mother. Kim suggested Young is well on pace to surpass her achievements.
“She is even better than I was,” Kim told Agence-France Presse. “I think her skills will improve further if she takes care and avoids injuries.”
While Kim expressed belief in Young’s abilities, she also hinted towards caution about the gauntlet young skaters face and how it’s so difficult to make it through and actually reach the Olympic stage.
At such a young age, Young is at risk, like so many other athletic prodigies, of falling prey to fame and hype. It’s something her mother Grace Lee frets over.
"Sometimes I worry because Young is not living a normal life as an 11-year-old. She can't hang out with friends, wear pretty clothes to school or take piano lessons," Lee said to AFP.
It’s a lifestyle Young will have to keep up for at least the next six years. Due to the Olympics age minimum of 15, the 4-foot-7 Young won’t be able to compete in 2018 when South Korean plays host to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, setting the table for a potential run to the 2022 games in Beijing.
But Young, who spent much of her time growing up in Singapore before her mother decided to the move the family back to South Korea, has shown laser focus on her craft and displayed dedication well beyond her years.
“I practiced the triple axel ahead of this season but it lacked perfection,” Young said according to The National. “I’m planning to give it another try after this season.”