National figure skating champion Christy Leung-yi on missing out on being a 'regular teenager' and why she once wanted to give up

National figure skating champion Christy Leung-yi on missing out on being a 'regular teenager' and why she once wanted to give up

We speak to national figure skating champion Christy Leung-yi about how she finds the time to master the sport while studying, and what motivates her to keep skating

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Christy Leung-yi with her medal and certificate after winning the Figure Skating Junior Ladies at the Hong Kong Figure Skating and Short Track Speed Skating Championships in April 2018. She now has her eyes set on qualifying for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Photo: Chan Kin-wa/SCMP

While most children tried to drag their parents to the toy store or ice-cream stall, Christy Leung-yi would head straight to the ice-skating rink.

Little did this seven-year-old know, as she gazed upon the spinning figure skaters in awe, that the sport would become a major part of her life and that in nine year's time she would emerge as one of the brightest stars in our figure skating history.

At the 2018/2019 Chinese National Figure Skating Championships last month in Harbin, China, Christy triumphed over 18 contestants from across the mainland to be crowned the national champion. It was a huge breakthrough in her career, and a historic moment for the city, as it was the first gold medal won by a Hongkonger at a national-level figure skating competition.

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Christy, now 16, told Young Post that she had briefly entertained the idea of winning the competition, but had just focused on doing her best in the end.

Winning the national champion title is only one of her notable achievements. In 2016, the teen skater made history by taking bronze at the 13th National Winter Games in Xinjiang (新疆); and her ninth-place finish at the 2017 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Taiwan made her the first Hongkonger to reach the top 10 at an international figure skating championship.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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After the national championship on the mainland, Christy said that having attained record-breaking success at her age can feel rather overwhelming at times, and that she often worries about failing to meet everyone's high expectations. But ultimately, she understands her genuine passion for the sport is what keeps her going.

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"I [feel] a bit stressed out, but I keep reminding myself that I carry on because I love this sport, not to break any Hong Kong record, or to get other people's validation and compliments."

Unlike most student athletes, Christy has since moving from Hong Kong to Beijing and the US, been home-schooled from the age of 10. Because of this, she has a more flexible timetable than other students, which allows her to prioritise figure skating in her life.

"Sometimes, I really want to go to an actual school like a regular teenager, but I know figure skating is the most important thing in my life at the moment, and home-schooling makes it easier for me to balance both sport and education."

HK figure skater Christy Leung wins historic gold at the 2018/2019 Chinese National Figure Skating Championships in Harbin

After spending four years in Beijing, she moved to Los Angeles, and now is based in the US state of Colorado, where she trains with elite junior skaters from the US, the mainland, and Korea. The decision to relocate to the US came after she suffered from a period of stagnation, where she wasn't able to improve her performance or results.

"I was stuck," she said. "I was bored by my daily training routine and I really wanted to give up."

Christy performs a Biellmann spin.
Photo: Gozar Images

What stopped her from walking out of the figure skating world was realising how empty her life would be without the sport.

"It would feel like my life was missing something - there's simply nothing else I want to pursue."

As the figure skating prodigy turned 16 last December, she is now officially eligible to compete in senior level competitions. That's why she has her sights set on qualifying for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, even if that means potentially starting university later than her peers.

"I'm really looking forward to my first senior world championship in March this year," said Christy, "I'm not sure about university yet, because I want to focus solely on qualifying for the 2022 Winter Olympics."

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

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