Yelim Kim: "I just love this sport, that's why I keep going"
November 22, 2023
By Iana Saveleva
Photo © Iana Saveleva
Yelim Kim kicked off her Grand Prix season at the Cup of China. We caught up with her in Chongqing to talk about her experience at this event and what motivates her to keep improving year by year.
So, first of all, how do you feel about this event?
Uhm... I'm not really satisfied with it. I made a big mistake in the short program, so I'm a little bit sad about this competition.
Putting aside your performance, how do you feel about this event in general and your time here in China?
It's my second time competing in China. The first one was the Beijing Olympics, but because of COVID there was no audience, so I couldn't feel the Chinese atmosphere. This time was my first "normal" competition in China as I could see many Chinese figure skating fans for the first time. They were cheering me on and screaming. It gave me a lot of energy, and it was very enjoyable for me to skate. I felt happy performing here.
How did your preparation go after the Finlandia Trophy?
Actually, I had some trouble after the Finlandia Trophy and it didn't go as planned... I was injured a bit, got a bit sick, and had headaches. Also, I had some problems with my boots. I got new boots right before the competition, just a week ago. So, it was hard to prepare for and compete at this event.
But you did well!
Thank you so much! Well, I tried to do my best, but I still feel a little bit sad, because I always want to show my best performance to the audience and to my fans. And this time I didn't.
You mentioned in some of your interviews that you feel nervous before or during a competition. How do you deal with it? How do you control your nerves?
I think the main thing is to trust myself and my training. This is very important, and I think it's all about that. But this time I didn't prepare well for this competition, so I didn't trust myself 100%, I didn't have enough confidence and maybe that's why I couldn't do my best.
In your career you've had ups and downs, but you always come back stronger. Even when you say you're sad, you still smile and do better next time. How do you manage to do that?
I'm an athlete, emotions shouldn't influence how I train or compete. I just always do what I need to do. When I don't do well in practice or competition, I feel very sad and angry, and sometimes even think: "I don't want to continue skating." But after a few minutes I say: "Actually, I want to do better than this!" So, I do my best again and again. I just love this sport, that's why I keep going.
Is it the same in your private life? Do you also control your emotions well outside skating?
When I was younger, I was very shy and not very emotional, but since a few years ago I think I've changed. Now I can be very emotional with myself, my family or even friends. So yeah, I've become a more emotional person. (laughs) Not very much though, just a little bit!
You always try to improve in all areas of skating, not only in jumps or spins, but also skating skills and choreography. So, what do you like and enjoy about figure skating the most?
I think figure skating is a very special sport because it's not just about elements, it's about art! And I really want to show that to the audience. Maybe a few years ago I was just focused on jumps or spins, but as I grew up, I was able to perform to the audience, and this was a very special, lovely thing. I want to give emotions to spectators. So, since last year I've been really focusing on that.
Talking about elements, I wanted to ask about your Ina Bauer. Whose idea was it to learn it and put it into programs?
Actually, this was my idea! After the Olympics I reflected on how I could improve more. My choreo sequence didn't really receive high scores or GOE, so I debated on what I could do better. And then I thought: "What if I make my Ina Bauer look bigger and more impressive?" And then I practiced it a lot during the off-season. When I showed it to David Wilson, he said: "Wow, this is amazing! Really great!" And he put it in my programs.
How long did it take you to make it look this good?
I think it didn't take too long, maybe a week. But I practiced it a lot of times! I really want to keep it because it looks great, and I want to make it my signature [move]!
Speaking of the Olympics, many skaters give their best during the Games, but then they retire or struggle to find motivation to keep going. But not in your case, you did really well at the Games, and then you kept improving! What motivated you?
After the Olympics I could feel that I love this sport and I wanted to do better. And then I practiced a bit differently. Before the Olympics I thought "I need to do it," but after the Olympics I thought "I love to do it!" And that's a big difference. Even though my training routine is the same, the approach is different, because my mind has changed. And that's how I could improve after the Olympics.
That's great! Can you tell me more about your training? For example, how many hours do you train per day?
In Korea, national skaters practice together every day. We have three hours of on-ice practices and two hours of off-ice training. On some days we have one hour of choreography training. I also do harness training for jumps. So, I think in total it's six hours [per day], not counting warm-ups.
Do you have a day off? And what do you usually do during that day?
Yes, it's Sunday! Sometimes I hang out with my friends. Sometimes I do nothing, just have a rest, and don't get up from my bed. (laughs) Also, these days I try baking. It's very interesting!
And the last question. How will you prepare for the NHK Trophy?
Well, I have really good memories from the NHK Trophy [last year], so this time I want to give a very good performance. I have only two weeks, it's a short time, but I will train hard. Hopefully I can do well at the NHK Trophy, I will try my best!
Wishing you best of luck! But most importantly, take care of yourself!