Chaeyeon Kim: “When I first became a national representative, I couldn’t believe it. It was first goal that I wanted to achieve. The next goal is participating in the Olympics.”

Posted on 2023-07-23 • No comments yet


Translation of the interview with Korean single skater Chaeyeon Kim.

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source: dd. 9th May 2023 by Jimin Park

The youngest member of the senior national team,, 3rd place in the World Championships Free Skating, and ranked 1st in average scores among Korean female skaters in the 22/23 season international competitions.

A dog lover, a 2nd-year student at Surin High School, just 16 years old, and an ISFJ personality type.

With a face full of shyness, she said, “I am figure skater Kim Chaeyeon.” Confident as an athlete, yet delicate and gentle off the ice.

“I started figure skating as a hobby when I was in the 4th grade. Our school took a group skating lesson at the rink during winter, and I found it fun, so I began it as a hobby. Then, one of the coaches who taught me asked if I’d like to try becoming a skater. So, around the 5th grade, I started taking lessons seriously as a skater.”

In figure skating, skaters can be eligible for international junior debut under the International Skating Union (ISU) when they are 12 years old. It is a young sport, typically starting around 5 to 7 years old. Kim Chaeyeon, who started at the age of 10, stands out as a remarkable newcomer due to her exceptional fundamentals. Despite starting relatively late, she is considered one of the skaters who can accurately distinguish lutzes from flips in international competitions. She is a well-rounded skater with excellent jumping skills, often referred to as a “textbook” skater, and she also excels in skating skills and flexible spins. The secret to balancing jumps and non-jump elements that she revealed is her consistency and continuous effort, always striving to improve.

“When I was young, I just enjoyed skating and kept pushing myself almost every day. I think that’s how I got to where I am now.”

Even as a 1st-year middle school student, Kim Chaeyeon overcame her first injury with her consistent determination. Her mother tried to persuade her to quit figure skating, and when she struggled with her jumps, she even sent long text messages saying, “I’ll really quit this time.” However, Kim Chaeyeon’s mindset of “until it works” allowed her to master five types of triple jumps.

“My ankle ligaments were stretched a lot, and it hurt when I jumped. I became a little scared of jumping, and at that time, my mom said, ‘If jumping scares you, wouldn’t it be better not to do it?’ So, I really thought about quitting, but then I felt I would regret it too much if I did…. So, I thought, ‘Let’s try not to be scared and overcome it!’ with the mindset of ‘If I don’t jump now, I’ll quit.'”

In March 2021, after just four years since starting figure skating, Kim Chaeyeon earned the title of national representative. It was truly an impressive achievement. Even she was surprised to be chosen as a national representative. She was asked about the significance of becoming a national representative and her thoughts at the time of the selection.

“When I first became a national representative, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t really think about it and just competed, thinking, ‘Am I really a national representative?’ It was kind of like that. When I trained in Taereung for the first time, I was nervous because I was skating with the seniors I used to watch when I first started. Becoming a national representative was definitely my first goal that I wanted to achieve. The next goal is participating in the Olympics.”

Kim Chaeyeon was born on December 8, 2006, and starting from the 2020/2021 season, she was eligible to compete in ISU-sanctioned junior competitions. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all junior competitions worldwide were canceled, leaving her disappointed. Undeterred, she faced the 2021/2022 season and confidently made her junior debut. With a flawless performance, she earned a score of 191.46 points and won the silver medal. It was even rumored that the wine decanter she received as a prize was being used as a flower vase.

“To be honest, even at that time, I couldn’t believe it, but I was still very happy. During the morning practice of the short program, everyone was doing so well. So, I thought, ‘I hope I can do it as I practiced.’ And when I went in and performed all the jumps, I was surprised to see a better result and score than I expected. I thought, ‘I hope to work even harder and climb higher in the future.’

Kim Chaeyeon’s dreams came true. The 2022/2023 season saw her standing on the podium much more frequently. She participated in 12 competitions, starting with the Junior Grand Prix, and won a total of 10 medals. Combined with her championship small medals, she has won medals in every event she has participated in.

Kim Chaeyeon’s mental and physical strength stood out, especially in late September to early October when she navigated between Junior Grand Prix and senior competitions for three weeks. She competed consecutively in the Junior Grand Prix 5th and 7th events and the Challenger Series in between, switching between junior and senior competitions. In her first senior event, the 2022 ISU Challenger Series Finlandia Trophy, she surpassed a total score of 200 points. Regarding this, she stated, “It wasn’t a strategic move.”

“I think part of it was trying to avoid the strong Japanese skaters by going a little later… I also participated in a Challenger event. It was planned to fit within that period. Although there are some differences in choreographic and step sequences between junior and senior free skate, both have no jumps in the middle and have them at the end, so it was a little less confusing. Sometimes, during practice, I found myself doing choreo when I should be doing steps, and vice versa (laughs).”

For Kim Chaeyeon, the past season was notably long. It started in late July and continued until April, with participation in at least one competition every month except for August. Out of the 12 competitions she entered, she made mistakes only three times. When asked about her remarkable consistency, she laughed and said, “I get quite nervous before going out on the ice.” After warming up, she feels less nervous, but she still feels a bit nervous in major competitions. Perhaps that’s why she gave herself a strict score of “around 50 points” for the 2023 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

“I think in the Short Program, I just focused on doing what I’ve been doing, and that’s why the results were good. In the Free Skating, I was a bit more ambitious and nervous, and that’s probably why there were some mistakes.”

Earlier, Kim Chaeyeon mentioned that this particular competition was one of the most memorable during the season. The reason being, she felt “regretful.” It showcased her ambition and determination. Using that competition as a stepping stone, Kim Chaeyeon sharpened her skating skills even further. Between the Four Continents Championships, Winter Sports Festival, and World Championships, she also prepared a new free program. Unfortunately, a mistake occurred during her confident combination jump in the short program, but her perseverance was evident as she added a triple toe loop to her final triple flip in the second half. Kim Chaeyeon’s astounding flexibility and quick thinking were not the only impressive aspects.

“To be honest, after the Four Continents, my choreographer, Shin Yea-ji, felt that something was a bit off, so she prepared one more program. I practiced both, and we decided to go with the one that seemed less physically demanding. That left me with a lot of spare time at the end. I improvised the final move on the spot.”

Kim Chaeyeon’s mother referred to her as a “regular and routine-oriented child.” In early April, right after the National Championships, Kim Chaeyeon adopted a new plan. She prepared her short program with choreographer Shin Yea-ji, who created a genre similar to contemporary dance, one that Kim Chaeyeon had never attempted before. Despite feeling somewhat inexperienced, she was determined to do her best and successfully convey the choreography.

As for the free program, she collaborated with world-renowned choreographer Benoit Richaud. The music was from a French movie soundtrack. At first, Kim Chaeyeon thought it was going to be lyrical, but it turned out to have a darker vibe. Richaud’s performance was powerful and fast, so Kim Chaeyeon realized she would need to put in extra effort to perform it with the necessary intensity. Moreover, as Richaud explained everything in English, it gave her a slight headache (laughs).

For Kim Chaeyeon, working with international choreographers is a second-time experience. Right after the 2021/2022 season, she had the opportunity to collaborate with David Wilson, who was once Kim Yuna’s choreographer during her skating career. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic restricting travel, they had to conduct the choreography through video conference. The program they originally planned to use was “The Rainbow,” which was also used by Olympic champion Tara Lipinski. After just one demonstration, they decided to switch to the Justice League OST “Everybody Knows” in collaboration with choreographer Shin Yea-ji. The decision was based on the advice of coach Ji Hyun-jung. Kim Chae-yeon’s mother mentioned that coach Chi Hyun-jung doesn’t hold back her advice on meticulous details, just like she does with costumes, despite her international success in coaching athletes like Lee Haein.

Regarding costumes, Kim Chaeyeon’s mother personally makes them for her daughter. Although it’s not her profession, she takes great care in creating all the costumes, except for the basic ones from when Kim Chaeyeon was just starting out, as a kind of homemade craftsmanship. Using a domestic sewing machine and hand-sewn beads, she pours her love into every stitch. She takes measurements herself and promptly makes alterations if anything feels uncomfortable. Kim Chaeyeon expressed her admiration for her mother’s costumes, saying they are creative and beautiful, which brings her joy.

One more reason to look forward to Kim Chaeyeon’s upcoming season is her pursuit of new techniques, along with exploring new genres and choreographers. She is attempting quad jumps and triple axel. Kim Chaeyeon is honing new skills, aligning herself with the era of higher difficulty in figure skating. In April of last year, a video of her practicing quad jumps with harness was posted on social media. During an interview after returning from the 2022 World Championships in March, she also expressed her determination to excel in high-difficulty jumps.

“I am currently practicing triple axel and quad toe loop with the harness. I’m trying to improve the height of my double axels. I think I need to perform double axels better to make the transition to the next level a bit easier.”

Kim Chaeyeon has two canine companions named “Doongie” and “Uju.” With a bright smile, she revealed her family members, saying, “I have mom, dad, one younger brother, and two dogs.” She has an Instagram account dedicated to her dogs, where she cheerfully shares their stories. To Kim Chaeyeon, Doongie and Uju are not just pets but friends and family members, filling the void of her school life with their presence since she began elite sports.

“I met Doongie during middle school, when I was going through some tough times. Uju, on the other hand, was given to me by Coach Jihyun Jung. Uju is the youngest among the four puppies Coach Jung’s dog gave birth to. Uju is still a bit mischievous due to her young age. When I feel a bit down, she comes and wags her tail, or licks me, which makes me feel better. We go for walks together, and I also play fetch with her.”

Over the past year, Kim Chaeyeon has experienced significant growth, not only in terms of quantifiable scores but also in her physical stature and mental attitude as a senior skater. She has matured more than ever before during her skating career. When she says, “I still have a long way to go, but someday, when I mature, I want to skate to famous movie soundtracks like ‘Schindler’s List’,” you can see the boundless and promising future he envisions.

Though she encountered figure skating later than other skaters, Kim Chaeyeon has been steadily progressing. The driving force behind her remarkable achievements this season was her mindset. After overcoming injuries and a slump, she approached her skating with the desire to enjoy it happily. As they say, those who enjoy the journey cannot be defeated. With a heart full of joy and effort, let us all continue to support Kim Chaeyeon’s happy skating as it moves forward.


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