Yura Min, South Korea's two-time national champion ice dancer, chatted and skated with students at an event Saturday hosted by the Korean Student Association and the Penn Figure Skating Club.
The event, which first took place in Huntsman Hall and then at the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, involved both a Q&A session and an on-ice portion, during which students could skate with Min and chat about her life as a skater and her career successes. Topics of conversation ranged from Min's early life as an ice dancer to her most embarrassing Olympics stories.
Min, who competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, began skating when she was six. She described her decision to skate professionally as a "snowball effect" that continues to push her to do her best.
Min added that her family and sense of patriotism serve as further motivation to train.
"My parents are huge a part of it because they've invested so much," she said, adding that the pride she has for her country drives her to work hard because she knows "[her] own country is cheering [her] on."
Because of her hectic training schedule, Min said it can be difficult to forge relationships with people outside of the skating world, as they cannot understand or relate to the everyday life of a skater.
"I'd wake up at six in the morning," Min said. "I'd be on the ice for two hours, and we'd have ballroom or lifting classes." In total, Min estimated about nine hours of training every day when preparing for competitions.
Min also discussed how it felt to represent her country at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Recalling the feeling of walking out during the opening ceremony to see crowds of people on all sides, she said, "sometimes I go to bed and just replay it in my head... [when] people from my own country are cheering me on, it's really, really special."
Min noted, however, the competition held more importance for her.
"The performance outweigh[ed] the opening ceremony because everyone, millions of people, [were] just looking at me."
That feeling of being watched and admired by so many, Min said, was unlike anything else.
Min is adept in many styles of skating, including ice dancing and synchronized skating. She described ice dancing as "storytelling on the ice," and synchronized skating as more complex and technical, involving difficult footwork. She also designs her own costumes, mimicking the red carpet outfits of famous singers such as Rihanna and Beyonce.
Min also talked about her split from skating partner Alexander Gamelin and her hopes for the future with new partner Daniel Eaton. She described her first time skating with Eaton as productive and successful, and that they were "in-sync" from their first practice together.
Two attendees, College sophomore Sarah Kim and Engineering sophomore Jake Lem, said Min seemed very personable at the event.
“She was really funny and easygoing,” Kim said. “It felt like a conversation.”
Lem agreed, saying that “she could have been another Penn student.”
Kim added that it was nice to see someone from Korea and to see Asian representation in athletics.
“We also get a lot of entertainers to speak [at Penn], but we don’t really get a lot of athletes,” she said.
Both students also mentioned Penn’s emphasis on certain club and team sports, such as football and basketball, at the expense of other niche sports organizations, such as Penn Figure Skating Club, which has sought funding from the Student Activities Council for two years to no avail. Kim said that the fact that the club is not funded by the University, and the fact that it does not get a lot of rink time, illustrates the school’s lack of emphasis on less mainstream sports.
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