With the success of Yu-Na Kim, who won the 2006 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, skaters from the Republic of Korea are finally becoming known on the international scene. One of the ladies who helped pave the way for Kim by competing at ISU championships is Ji-Eun Choi, who turned 18 in May, but is already a veteran at the international level. “I have to work harder now,” Choi stated. “I’m always working in the same rink with Yu-Na and she presses me.”
Choi, who was born in Daejon, placed 18th at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in 2003, then competed in seniors at Worlds, finishing 30th in 2004 and 2005 and 20th in the qualifying round in 2006. Choi also competed at the Four Continents Championships, finishing tenth in 2005 and 13th in 2006. During the 2005-06 season, Choi finished 11th at the Karl Schaefer Memorial in Vienna in seniors. In juniors, she won her first bronze medal this season with a strong finish at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary. Last season, Choi was sixth at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Japan and tenth at the Tallinn Cup in Estonia.
Choi began skating when she was ten. “My mother and father liked figure skating,” she said. “My whole family went skating together. First I was just doing it for the love of the sport, but then I started progressing and got so far into it that I couldn’t stop.” Choi soon began training seriously and landed her first triple jump, a triple salchow, within four years.
That progress led to a silver medal in novice ladies in 2001, silver in juniors in 2002, gold in juniors in 2003, and silver in seniors in 2004 and 2005. She had progressed to the point where she was landing a triple toe-triple toe and triple lutz-triple toe combination in practice before a severe ankle injury before the 2006 Four Continents Championships set her back. Choi has been injured in each of the last three seasons. First she hurt her hip, and then the next season injured her knee and thigh, before the ankle injury in 2005-06. “It always seems to happen before a big competition,” she lamented.
Choi has trained in Seoul for the last six years with Hea-Sook Shin during the season, but trains in North America during the summer. Last summer, she worked with Josee Chouinard at the Granite Club in Toronto, while during the three previous years she trained in Colorado Springs, Colorado for two months. Choi practices for about four hours a day, six days a week on ice with another two hours a day of off ice training.
Lori Nichol and Shin choreographed Choi’s 2005-06 programs. Nichol usually selects the music, which included “Shaham” by Rondo Veneziano for the short program, a holdover from the 2004-05 season. “I saw the show and liked the music,” Choi said. For her long program, Choi skated to “Menuette” from “Terzetto Conceutatnte” by Paganini, “Concerto in D” by Vivaldi, and “Adagio” by Schubert. “The music is interesting and has a kick,” Shin stated. “I usually like to skate to classical music, something slow and pretty,” Choi noted.
For the 2006-07 season, Choi turned to Yutaka Higuchi for new choreography. For her short program, Choi is using “Romeo and Juliet”, while for the long she is skating to “Violin Concerto in D Minor Opus 35″ by Tchaikovski.
Off ice, Choi enjoys shopping, going out with friends, chatting on-line and surfing the web, and watching romantic and horror movies. She collects pins and all kinds of items related to skating. Choi, who played the piano as a youngster, usually listens to Korean pop music when not skating. She also enjoys snow skiing and hopes to go horseback riding in the summer.
Choi plans to skate for at least four more years, hoping to make it to the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. Afterwards, she would like to be a choreographer. After finishing high school studies in music this summer, she plans to begin university studies in sports psychology and physical education in the fall.