In just six short months, skater is standing tall

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In just six short months, skater is standing tall

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Choi Min-jeong

At the International Skating Union (ISU) World Short Track Speed Skating Championships last week in Moscow, she collected three gold medals and one bronze to become the overall champion. It was her first appearance at the Worlds.

The 16-year-old Seohyun High School student has rocked the ice world in the six months since she joined the senior national team. That’s something even Shim Suk-hee, who won gold in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, couldn’t do.

A day after she returned from the Worlds, Choi was training at the Korea National Sport University rink in Seoul. After 10 p.m. on March 18, she appeared at a cafe for an interview with Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of Korea JoongAng Daily.

Q. What do you think about some people calling you monster?

A. If that’s a nickname with a bad meaning, it’s little bit awkward, but I think people gave me that nickname with good intentions. It makes me work harder.

Why did you train just day after arriving in Korea after the Worlds?

Training is something I do every day. Before training, I went to school. It’s really difficult for me to attend school because I am usually training. In fact, I really wanted to meet new classmates. I’m a little shy, so I don’t make friends quickly.

Are you a person with tough character or a practice addict?

Neither. Some people call me a practice addict, but I don’t practice that much.

How do you feel after becoming world No.1 in short track speed skating?

Honestly, I prepared a lot and I did expect some good results. However, I never imagined I would get this kind of good result. It’s not something I did on my own. There were my coaches, national team skaters, including Suk-hee, and my mother.

Can you explain why you forgot to stand on the podium at the Worlds?

It was first time for me to stand on the podium at this kind of international event, so I was tense. Even after I was on the podium, I didn’t smile. Skaters next to me told me to smile.

Do you usually feel you’re under strain? Is it the pressure?

I always feel tense, whether the race is in Korea or overseas. It’s difficult to explain, but half of my feeling is pressure and the other half is thrill. When I’m on the starting line, the two feelings are mixed. I feel tense, but it doesn’t affect my race a lot.

When did you start skating?

My father took me to a skating lesson when I was 6 years old and it was really fun. So I told my parents I wanted to skate in a serious way. Then my parents went all in for me. When I was a third grader, my personal coach moved to Seongnam, Gyeonggi, so we also moved there. I also had to move from Hyehwa Elementary School to Pundang Elementary School. Looking back, I think my parents and my older sister really sacrificed for me, and I really thank them for that.

People say you and Shim Suk-hee are rivals. What do you think?

I hear we are rivals, but personally there is no rivalry between her and me. In fact, she really helps me a lot on the national team as I’m the rookie. At the Worlds, we were roommates and cheered up each other. In races where we both compete, we always first think of a strategy that can advance us both to the next round. If it’s the final, then we just have to compete against each other in good faith.

Your main race is 1,500 meters, but you did well in other events. What did you learn at the Worlds?

I realized that in short races, you have to be strong on the outside of the course. In the 500 meters in particular, the outside track is really important. I was fortunate to learn that through the Worlds.

BY PI JOO-YOUNG [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]
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