HK's top teen skaters on positive thinking, and the unexpected challenges of growing up

HK's top teen skaters on positive thinking, and the unexpected challenges of growing up

Teen skaters Kahlen Cheung and Jacke Zhao’s victories in elite junior categories give fans hope for the future of figure skating in the city


15-year-old Kahlen Cheung says a positive mindset is key to good performance.
Photo: Kelly Ho/SCMP

Backed by an enthusiastic home crowd, two of Hong Kong’s teenage skaters won first place at last week’s 2018/2019 Asian Junior Figure Skating Challenge, which ended on Thursday.

More than 180 competitors from nine Asian countries and regions including the mainland, Taiwan, India, and Singapore gathered at the Festival Walk ice rink for the three-day event, where the skaters went toe pick-to-toe pick.

The skaters, aged between six and 18, showcased their talents in 32 events. Fifteen-year-old Kahlen Cheung Cheuk-ka was crowned the overall champion in the elite junior ladies category.

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“Yesterday wasn’t my best performance, but I managed to pick it up today and I did my best,” Kahlen told Young Post on the final day of the event. The skating star said, despite her accolades, she constantly has to remind herself to keep her competitive mindset a positive one.

“If your mentality is really negative, then you often can’t execute the moves well. This is something that I struggle with.”

The Year 11 student from Sha Tin College spent a fruitful summer training in the US this year, but found, when she came back to Hong Kong, that she was not performing as well as she had expected.

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“I just felt like something was not right, and all this negativity came over me. I thought I wasn’t ready for this competition and I wanted to quit,” she said. Kahlen’s coach helped her get through this dark period, and she said she is now raring to go.

Kahlen, who joined the Hong Kong figure skating team last year, has taken part in many international tournaments. She keeps her cool and her nerves steady by giving herself a pep talk before the event.

“I tell myself that I’ve been practising a certain move for a really long time, so I just have to do what I normally do, because I know how to do the moves. This helps me to get all the stress out from my system.”

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Kahlen said she was grateful to have had the support of her home crowd. “There were so many people watching me and it gave me a confidence boost to be able to perform in front of skaters from other countries.”

14-year-old Jacke Zhao has to adapt to his growing height in his figure skating training.
Photo: Kelly Ho/SCMP

Meanwhile, in the elite junior men’s category, Fukien Secondary School student Jacke Zhao Heung-lai took home the title for a second consecutive year.

“I’m thrilled to have won again this year, but I wasn’t very happy with my performance today. I failed to execute a jump which I am normally quite confident about, and one of my turns was flawed as well,” he said.

The 14-year-old, who took part in the Junior Grand Prix in Canada last month, said the biggest challenge he is facing at the moment is his physical changes brought on by puberty.

“I’m much taller now than I was even just a few months ago, and I’m still growing,” he said. “My jumps have been greatly affected by this change. Being tall means I find it harder to find balance when landing. It will take time and effort to adapt to this change.”

The 2018/2019 Asian Junior Figure Skating Challenge is sanctioned by the Asian Skating Union, but the results will not have any effect on the skaters’ world rankings. Still, Kahlen said that she sees the event as a way of gaining competition experience, which is valuable in her career.

“I want to participate in the Junior Worlds next year, as well as the Winter Youth Olympics in 2020,” she said. “Joining competitions of different levels will help me gain more experience.”

Edited by M. J. Premaratne

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
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