Yelim Kim: “With a lot of care put into my FP to the ‘Summer of 1942’, it became my life-defining program.”

Posted on 2023-06-27 • No comments yet


Translation of an article and interview with Yelim Kim. About past season, programs and plans for the future.

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source: dd. 2023.05.04 by Cho Young-joon

“Looking back on this season, there were really many good moments. I know how disappointing the World Championships were, but I didn’t want to undermine all the hard work I put into that competition.”

Kim Yelim (20, Dankook University), known as the ‘Figure Skating General,’ had an eventful 2022-2023 season. As a female single skater at the young age of 20, she had an ‘unprecedented season,’ but it seemed like her hard-earned accomplishments crumbled with just one competition.

In the past season, Kim Yelim participated in a total of nine international competitions. Traveling all over the world throughout the season, she won a remarkable total of seven medals (3 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze). It was the highest number of medals won by a Korean female single skater in a single season of international competitions.

However, the World Championships, where she was supposed to shine the most, were overshadowed by misfortune. Hindered by a persistent back injury and poor condition throughout the season, she had to accept her worst ranking ever, 18th place.

The steps she had taken without a chance to catch her breath seemed to unravel weakly. However, there was still a competition remaining compared to previous seasons. Korean figure skating made its debut in the International Skating Union (ISU) World Team Trophy, the national team event. Standing confidently on the ice as a representative of Korea, the ‘Figure Skating General’ made a brilliant comeback.

Sports News met Kim Yelim, who is preparing for the upcoming season, at the Taereung Indoor Ice Rink in Nowon-gu, Seoul. With a silver medal from the World Team Trophy, Kim Yelim’s expression brightened, and she glided across the ice with ease.

After the World Team Trophy, Kim Yelim returned to Korea. The next day, she went directly to the hospital for a back injury examination and was admitted for treatment. She was discharged on the April 27th but had not attempted any jumps yet, considering her physical condition (the article was published in the beginning of May).

The World Team Trophy, in which she made her debut, became Kim Yelim’s ‘stage of revival.’ In the Womens’ Single Free Skating event held on the 14th of last month, she received her season’s best and personal best score of 143.59 points. After a disappointing performance at the World Championships, she seemed to have suffered more than anyone else, and tears flowed after the competition.

“After the World Championships, I was shocked, deeply saddened, and it was really tough. So, the preparation process for the Team Trophy was not easy either. However, I didn’t want to cause any inconvenience to other skaters, and I didn’t have the intention to give up on the competition. I wanted to do my best with what I could.”

Male singles representatives, Lee Sihyeong (23, Korea University) and Kyeong Jaeseok (23), who visited Saitama, Japan, where the World Championships were held, provided support to Kim Yelim, lifting her spirits from her sagging shoulders.

“Actually, they didn’t talk much about the competition or the performances. We tried to uplift my mood with everyday conversations and funny jokes.”

After a trip to Japan with Lee Sihyeong and Kyeong Jaeseok, Kim Yelim returned home and aimed to restore her honor at the World Team Trophy. With relentless efforts this season, she executed her programs flawlessly, achieving a successful outcome.

Team Korea’s teamwork, which has grown closer through the training camp at Jincheon Athletes’ Village, shines brilliantly at the World Team Trophy.

True to her nickname ‘Figure Skating General,’ Kim Yelim possesses a carefree personality and shares a strong bond with male singles skaters. When asked if it would have been nice to have such older brothers, she replied with a smile, saying, “It would have been fun.”

“I have a carefree personality, and I’m not afraid of being myself in front of them. (Laughs) I was already close to my national team colleagues before, but the training camp in Jincheon was a significant turning point. Spending personal time together during training and meals, except for sleeping hours, allowed us to see each other in ways we hadn’t seen before and become closer like a family.”

At the World Team Trophy, Team Korea cheered on their teammates with various forms of support. It was a scene that could only come from genuine camaraderie. Kim Yelim not only achieved her best performance of the season but also gained even stronger bonds with her teammates.

In the past, figure skaters lacked a “play culture” for their leisure time. However, their bond grew stronger as they became interested in table tennis. When asked about her table tennis skills, Kim Yelim chuckled and said, “I’m the best at it.”

“(Cha) Junhwan, my older teammate, said that both he and I are the best at it, but the truth is, Junhwan has never beaten me. (Laughs) We all enjoyed it, so after training every day, we played table tennis, which also became an opportunity to become closer with athletes from other disciplines.”

The masterpiece born after many trials, ‘Summer of 1942’ is a life-defining program.

For a figure skater, their program is the embodiment of everything they have. The combined score of technical elements (TES) and program component score (PCS) evaluates the completed program as a ‘work of art’ rather than just a display of technical skills.

During her childhood, Kim Yelim showed a disadvantage in “expressiveness” compared to her peers. Since the 2019-2020 season, when she started actively performing on the senior stage, she has already completed her fourth senior season.

The experience gained from participating in major international competitions and presenting various programs has finally borne fruit. In particular, the free skating program, a movie-themed program titled ‘Summer of 1942’ performed on numerous stages during the 2022-2023 season, has become a milestone in her figure skating career.

This program features choreography that skillfully fills the gaps between various jumps and technical elements. In particular, Kim Yelim showcased fingerwork and stroking that exuded a senior skater’s feel, adding momentum to the completion of the program.

“To be honest, when I was working on the programs last season, the short program (Mercy) progressed smoothly, but I encountered some issues with the free skating program. I didn’t initially like the arrangement, so I had a lot of discussions with choreographer David Wilson. Eventually, I decided to request a custom arrangement, and that became the final version. It went through a lot of deliberation and hardships. With a lot of care put into it, it became my life-defining program, and I finished it with a triumphant emotion in the last competition (World Team Trophy Free Skating). I think it will be remembered for a long time.”

The program ‘Summer of 1942’ choreographed by David Wilson, was rearranged with a new composition by Karl Hugo during the season. This piece, born after many trials and tribulations, marked Kim Yelim’s resurrection.

For the 2023-2024 season, Jeffrey Buttle and Wilson will choreograph her programs. Last season, several male single skaters, including Cha Junhwan, garnered attention by presenting popular pop songs.

When asked if she wanted to attempt a new transformation, Kim Yelim stated, “I don’t feel confident enough to perform such songs in competitions, but I have thought about doing so in galas.” She added, “I feel that lyrical and classical music suits me well, so I don’t plan on making significant changes for now.”

Although she has surpassed the age of twenty, her passion for figure skating has not waned.

When discussing Korean figure skating history, the presence of Kim Yuna (33) has been significant. Kim Yuna, who blazed new trails in every way, has had a tremendous influence on skaters who were inspired by her footsteps.

Kim Yuna officially withdrew from official competitions after the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. In the spring of that year, she announced her retirement during an ice show.

Nearly ten years have passed since Kim Yuna left the ice. Many juniors have challenged the international stage, and the number of medals has gradually increased. In the 2022-2023 season, a skater emerged who won a remarkable seven medals at international competitions. Kim Yelim became the senior female single skater with the most number of medals won in a single season in Korean figure skating history. (Kim Yuna: 5 international competition medals each in the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons, You Young: 5 international competition medals in the 2019-2020 season)

Furthermore, she became the first skater, male or female, to win back-to-back titles at the ISU Challenger Series and the Grand Prix NHK Trophy. Additionally, she achieved a historic feat by standing on the podium (bronze medal) for the first time in women’s singles at the Winter World University Games.

It would be a waste for such achievements to be overshadowed by the underperformance at the World Championships. Kim Yelim expressed with determination, “Looking back on this season, there were truly many great moments. While the World Championships still bring a great sense of regret, I didn’t want to diminish the hard work I put into this competition alone.”

The driving force behind Kim Yelim’s exceptional season at the age of twenty was the power of positivity. Her height of 170cm could potentially hinder her in maintaining jump quality and pose a risk of injuries. However, she made a conscious decision to utilize this positively and made efforts to highlight her strengths through expressive hand movements, impressive jumps, and movements stemming from her long arms.

As the season progressed, competing against skaters who brought challenging jump combinations became one of Kim Yelim’s tasks. Although she may not attempt quad jumps or difficult elements like triple Axel, her current technical content is on par with senior top-level skaters.

Kim Yelim said, “I plan to try various approaches to elevate my technical content. Last year, fueled by the desire for improvement, I included a double Axel sequence in the second part of my program. This time, I have a strong desire for further development, although I’m not sure yet how I will enhance my technical content.”

Kim Yelim, who has become the eldest female skater of the national team before she knew it, candidly revealed, “I feel a sense of responsibility, but sometimes it can be a lonely fight.” Her gaze is now set on the 2026 Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Oalympics, following her experience at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. There may be times when her passion for figure skating and determination waver, but Kim Yelim confidently stated, “Compared to my childhood, I have actually come to love figure skating more.”

“I hope that even after becoming a college student, it will be natural for me to continue skating when considering the future. And in the upcoming season, my goal is to show my best abilities and achieve good results in the last two competitions, the Four Continents Championships and the World Championships. During adolescence, there were moments when my passion for figure skating wavered, but now my love for this sport has grown even stronger. The fascinating thing is that (practice and competitions) can be really tough, but as time goes by, my passion for skating only deepens.” (laughs)


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