Ahsun Yun: “I believe that you have to experience competitions to truly understand them, but it’s also important to accept the results. Just because things didn’t work out this season doesn’t mean I need to be disheartened.”
Interview with Ahsun Yun, South Korean single skater, 2021 Korean national silver medalist, 4th finish at the 2022 World Junior Championships.
source: mfocus.kr 8th July 2023 by Jimin Park
“My friends go to school and provate academies. In contrast, I spend most of my time on the ice rink, and the off-ice training is somewhat like attending an academy, so you could say that ice rink is almost my home. Life of an athlete can be tough, but it has become somewhat of my daily routine, making the ice rink life feel more comfortable and familiar.”
When they say, ‘Ahsun Yun’s day is filled with figure skating,’ it’s not an exaggeration. Even her hobby of listening to music is for finding music that she could use in the future. During her free time, she listens to program music and makes efforts to interpret it in her own way. For example, in last season’s short program ‘Circles,’ she not only conveyed the message of the lyrics but also worked continuously on expressing the feeling of blossoming flowers and gradually increasing movements. She reflects on herself, finds areas for improvement, and keeps contemplating.
She is just 16 years old, a freshman in high school, and an older sister to two younger sisters, has a dog named Hodu. I had the chance to meet Ahsun Yun and have a conversation with her.
At the age of 7, Ahsun Yun first put on skates at Lotte World and quickly developed an interest in the sport. Two years later, she began her serious athlete’s journey with Coach Jung Sung-il. Initially aiming for only double axels, Ahsun Yun soon succeeded in triple jumps, sparking her dreams for the next level. It had been just four years since she started figure skating in earnest.
“The double axel, a two-and-a-half rotation jump, took some time, but after that, the triple jumps came naturally in one go. That’s when I started setting higher goals.”
With the dream of the Olympics, Ahsun Yun became even more diligent in her training. Despite most ice rinks in the metropolitan area being closed due to COVID-19, she traveled long distances to find open training venues in Pohang and Gangneung. After going through this challenging period, Ahsun Yun had her best season. In February 2021, she placed second in the senior division at the National Championships and third at the March Chairman’s Cup Ranking Competition. Although her international junior debut was canceled, she made it onto the national team for the first time.
“To be honest, it was supposed to be the season for my junior debut, so I felt a bit disappointed. On one hand, it became a chance to strengthen my mindset, and I prepared for the competitions by focusing more on overall rankings, thinking that if I perform well, I could achieve my goals. Although I obtained rankings for the World Championships and Four Continents Championships, there were no events I could participate in due to my age. So, in a way, it gave me peace of mind. Since I didn’t have any major competitions to worry about, I prepared with a relaxed mindset, hoping for good results.”
It was the first national team selection competition where Ahsun Yun achieved her first podium finish, but she didn’t expect to win the silver medal herself. Ahsun Yun heard the news of her award while sitting in the stands, watching the performances of the seniors (older skaters).
“I was watching how the seniors warmed up, how they executed their programs well, and how the stories in their choreography were conveyed. During my preparation, it was quite tough, and although I managed to skate clean, it was tough during the preparation. So, I thought, ‘Now I can go home. I can rest for a while. I have the ranking competition in 2 or 3 weeks, so I need to prepare well for that.’ But then they called us quickly. I was taken aback. I was planning to go home, but I heard that I got second place. There were many talented seniors, and I learned a lot from watching their performances. But suddenly, my name was associated with the second-place ranking. So, during the interview at that time, I remember being very surprised. While the seniors were expecting it, it was an unexpected result for me, so I felt a bit dazed and confused during the interview.”
After a long wait, Ahsun Yun made her debut on the international stage at the 2021 Junior Grand Prix in France. Unlike other skaters who had sporadically competed on the international stage since the novice level and became familiar with competitions, Yun’s experience was quite different. Furthermore, her first competition took place in a high-altitude area over 1,000 meters above sea level, and she had to compete in two events in the same rink consecutively over two weeks. Although she had high expectations for the competition, she didn’t achieve her desired results. Yun’s mother, Park Su-jin, expressed her regret about that time.
“We had very little information about the high-altitude area. What Yun mentioned first was, ‘Mom, it feels like someone is pulling me from below when I jump. It’s like jumping with a sandbag attached.’ She couldn’t breathe properly coming down. After the competition, she even received hateful comments like ‘Swim back!’ We were shocked. At that time, when she returned, she had to self-isolate for two weeks, so we tried to limit her phone usage, and it was a complete panic.”
At that time, Yun was just a second-year middle school student, only 14 years old. Despite the disappointment, Yun gritted her teeth and moved forward. She worked hard again for the December ranking competition and the national championships. She had the mindset of “Junior Grand Prix may be over, but the sport itself isn’t ending.” Perhaps because of this mindset, after going through many difficulties, she participated in the Junior World Championships and secured third place in the short program, completely shaking off the disappointment of not beingg able to shown on the international stage in the previous season. In the free skating as well, she delivered a flawless performance with no mistakes.
“During the preparation, I had a few injuries. When I went to the Junior World Championships, I dislocated my shoulder during official practice. It was a valuable opportunity for me, so I didn’t want to give up because I would have been really disappointed. Opportunities like that don’t come around often. It was my first overseas competition after the Junior Grand Prix, so I wanted to do well. Despite the minor injury, I managed to finish the short program well and received a small medal. In the free program, I couldn’t ultimately win a medal, but I was still satisfied because I gave my best and performed cleanly.”
As Ahsun Yun grew with a fiery spirit, she was not immune to the cheers of the audience. When she first participated in the President’s Cup Ranking Competition in 2019, she was greatly surprised by the applause. However, soon after, she spent a long time without any audience due to the pandemic. The Junior Grand Prix Selection event in 2021 was a perfectly remote competition where even the judges couldn’t be present. Therefore, when she made her debut at the Senior Grand Prix in October, her first impression of the event was the “audience.”
“Skate America might be a memorable competition for me. The difference about the Senior Grand Prix was that there were many spectators. Despite making a mistake in the short program, I tried to make up for it in the free program by listening to the music more and focusing on myself. I hoped to show a more enjoyable side of myself to the audience and tried to enjoy the moment even if I made mistakes.”
Ahsun Yun’s first year as a senior skater was a harsh season. She had to leave the Jincheon National Training Center early due to a hip injury. During the season’s first competition, the Nebelhorn Trophy, she collided with another skater during official practice and showed symptoms of a concussion, even vomiting during a spin. She had no choice but to withdraw from the planned senior debut. At the National Championships, she missed the opportunity to represent her country by a narrow margin. It was not an easy season, but Ahsun Yun used the disappointment as motivation for the upcoming season.
“I believe that you have to experience competitions to truly understand them, but it’s also important to accept the results. Just because things didn’t work out this season doesn’t mean I need to be disheartened. I’m preparing with the mindset of going back to the basics. There may be similar experiences in the future, but I see them as stepping stones. It was a bit disappointing, but it was inevitable, and I did make some mistakes that cannot be undone. Now, I’m accepting it and preparing well for the next season so that I can have no regrets in my performances, and maybe, someday, I’ll be back in that position again.”
As a form of recharging, Ahsun Yun participated in the YouTube web entertainment series called “High Score Season 2.” It is a math travel content aimed at high school students, and she accidentally applied upon the recommendation of fans. Despite the high competition, she passed the interview and received an acceptance message.
“We filmed for about three to four days. It was right after the Canada training, so I hadn’t fully adjusted to the time difference yet, but it was enjoyable. I learned more about other sports, and I became friends with the other participants as we played fun games together. It was a meaningful experience because it was related to sports. I discovered many things I didn’t know about other sports, like which muscles are used more during certain exercises. Through our conversations, I realized there were many things I had never known before, and I also found commonalities regardless of the sport.”
Ahsun Yun is diligently working and preparing for the upcoming Junior Grand Prix selection event, which will take place on July 22nd. Her goal is to overcome the disappointment of the previous Junior Grand Prix and to prepare for the 2023 Gangwon Winter Youth Olympics.
“I think I’ll compete as a junior again this season. I’m also practicing flip-toe combonation. I want to overcome the regret from the previous Junior Grand Prix and do well in the current junior selection event. Actually, my biggest goal is the Youth Olympics next year, so I want to use the junior competitions before the Youth Olympics selection event to fill in any gaps I might have. My goal for this season includes having a satisfying performance in the Junior Grand Prix, participating in the Youth Olympics, and returning to the national team.”
During the off-season, Ahsun Yun participated in the Play Winter special training, supported by the PyeongChang 2018 Foundation. With the foundation’s assistance, she traveled to Toronto, Canada, for an intensive training program. The foundation not only provided material support but also connected her with a dedicated figure skating rink and facilitated communication on-site. Ahsun Yun expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to enhance the completeness of her programs and work on non-jump elements during her time in Canada. In collaboration with choreographer Jeffrey Buttle, she personally chose the La La Land OST for her short program.
“Fans have been recommending La La Land OST for quite some time, and I decided to go with it. I think it goes well with a bright image. The point I want to showcase is the step sequence. For this short program, I’m preparing with the intention of conveying my program’s story better to the audience and the judges. I’ve also included many key movements.”
Ahsun Yun considers her greatest strength as an athlete to be her resilience in recovering from mistakes. She sees it as an advantage to be able to calm her mind and perform well even after making errors. Her ultimate goal as she continues to grow as a skater aligns with the same principle.
“I want to be remembered as a skater who overcame challenges when things were tough. I know I can’t always perform perfectly, but if I try my best and work hard, the competitions will end with a cool and impressive finish. I want to leave a lasting impression with that kind of performance, both in my choreography and during competitions.”
Ahsun Yun’s mother, Park Soo-jin, also shares similar hopes and aspirations for her daughter. She envisions Ahsun Yun as a positive role model, inspiring courage and hope in others with each step she takes.
“I hope Ahsun Yun can be an icon of positivity, giving courage to others and serving as a role model. As she grows as an athlete, I also hope that she will view her journey as a process rather than just focusing on the end results. In life, there are moments of rest, and the journey is not always about reaching the destination. So, I believe that finishing well is also part of the journey.”
Ahsun Yun is a warm and bright individual, and her strong mindset and desire to become a better athlete are shaped by her mother, who accompanies her in every step of the way. Today, as always, they support Ahsun Yun in her pursuit of greater achievements, and they hope that she can become a positive icon of influence, even during times of rest, inspiring others with her journey.
Evgenia Medvedeva: “When I went through the realization that I might not compete again, I thought, ‘Alright, I need to take even a small step into real life.’ For that, I needed support of a psychologist.”