15-year-old skater dreams big

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By LIA ZHU in San Fran­cisco li­azhu@chinadailyusa.com

Karen Chen, the 15-yearold bronze medal­ist from last month’s US Fig­ure Skat­ing Cham­pi­onships, is ex­cited about the com­ing trip to the Ju­nior World Cham­pi­onships in Es­to­nia in three weeks.

But her ul­ti­mate goal is the Win­ter Olympic Games in three years. “I hope I can win a medal there. Gold would be the best,” she said in an in­ter­view on Tues­day. “But it’s an honor to just par­tic­i­pate.”

The Chi­nese-Amer­i­can girl, con­sid­ered a fu­ture star of US fig­ure skat­ing, said she re­al­ized her pas­sion and love for sports at age 6. “It’s a small com­pe­ti­tion, but I felt so happy on ice, not just fun, but very happy,” she said.

Her mother, Hsi­uhui Tseng, also re­mem­bered how happy her daugh­ter was when she stepped onto the ice and danced in front of peo­ple.

“She was a shy girl, but we were sur­prised that she was not shy at all on ice, Tseng said. “She was so care­free and con­fi­dent.”

From then on, Karen’s par­ents sent her to train un­der pro­fes­sional coaches, though they did not pre­pare her to be the next skat­ing queen of Amer­ica.

“We took her to skate for fun when she was 4 and she told us she liked it,” Tseng said.

Karen is now train­ing in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s River­side, far from her home in Hay­ward, be­cause the River­side ice rink al­lows her to prac­tice both morn­ing and af­ter­noon.

She now spends 1.5 hours in the morn­ing ses­sion and an­other 1.5 hours in the af­ter­noon prac­tic­ing jumps. The au­di­ence was im­pressed by her triple jumps in last month’s cham­pi­onships.

“I am very happy and ex­cited,” Karen said. “I hadn’t ex­pected the bronze medal.”

She is hop­ing to im­prove on her per­for­mance in next month’s ju­nior world cham­pi­onships. “But it’s go­ing to be tough,” she added, as she will com­pete against some other big jumpers there.

Young as she is, Karen has been skat­ing for 11 years and ob­tained much ex­pe­ri­ence in re­gional and na­tional com­pe­ti­tions. In 2012, she won the US Novice Ladies ti­tle at na­tion­als. It’s ex­pected that she can build her rep­u­ta­tion in front of in­ter­na­tional judges in Es­to­nia next month.

In or­der to con­cen­trate on skat­ing, Karen has been at­tend­ing an on­line public school since the sixth grade, which pro­vides a more flex­i­ble sched­ule. “Although I miss my school life and friends, the on­line sched­ule is more ef­fi­cient for me,” she said.

Un­like many Chi­nese par­ents who em­pha­size their chil­dren’s aca­demic per­for­mance, Karen’s par­ents, both en­gi­neers, try their best to sup­port their chil­dren in ful­fill­ing their dreams.

The mother chooses to work at home so she can travel with Karen and her younger brother Jef­frey, who also skates.

“I thought of ask­ing her to give up af­ter she broke her an­kle dur­ing prac­tice,” Tseng ad­mit­ted. “But she is very determined, so we de­cided to give her the best sup­port that we can.”

Karen’s sup­port comes not only from her fam­ily, but also from 1992 Olympic cham­pion Kristi Ya­m­aguchi, who was born in Hay­ward and who has been some­thing of a men­tor to Karen af­ter the girl’s coach in­tro­duced them in 2012. Karen also has been a re­cip­i­ent of Ya­m­aguchi’s Al­ways Striv­ing schol­ar­ship.

A shin­ing star her­self, Karen has ad­mir­ers. On her web­site, young girls left such mes­sages as, “My goal is to be just like you.”

She replied: “Fol­low our hearts, work hard, work smart and we can all achieve our goals.”


Karen Chen with the bronze medal she won at the US Fig­ure Skat­ing Cham­pi­onships, held on Jan 17-25 in Greens­boro, North Carolina.

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