Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

Field Trip Leads Gymnast to Ice Rin

Kristine Lee

Hong Kong’s Kristine Lee was a late starter on the ice. She began her athletic career as a gymnast, starting at the age of seven and competing for six years before she ever touched an ice surface. Lee, who specialized in floor exercise, finished as high as second in the Massachusetts state championships in her age group before chance took her in a new direction.

When she was 13, her school offered a field trip to a skating rink and Lee signed up. She immediately liked the sport and was soon taking lessons. Her gymnastics background helped with her balance, flexibility and endurance on the ice and within a year, she had landed her first clean double axel jump. When she was 15, she landed her first clean triple: a salchow. But then tragedy struck. While attempting a flying camel in practice during her junior level year in the following spring, another skater backed into her, and sent her crashing to the ice on her head, resulting in a concussion, and stress fractures in her back, knee and ankle.

“I didn’t compete from the time I was 17 until I was about 19, or at least it was painful to do so, sometimes the injuries from the past still hurt occasionally” she recalled. “I started taking ice dance lessons from Tatiana Tarasova. I though maybe if I couldn’t jump, maybe I could ice dance for the time being, and improve my edges and skating skills. I had to try something to stay on the ice. There’s nothing better than doing something I love, and I love skating.”

After recovering later on, her jumps began coming back and she did well at the U. S. New England Regionals, and under the recommendation of Tatiana, she decided to try for some international experience by skating for Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China. Her family emigrated from Hong Kong to the United States in the 1960s (her father) and 1980s (her mother).

The 22-year-old first competed for Hong Kong at the Karl Schaefer Memorial in Vienna, Austria in 2006, placing 16th. But then she got hives and a severe allergic reaction from something she ate and missed her next competition, the Golden Spin of Zagreb as well as most of her training time in November through December 2006. She came back in February, finishing 25th at the 2007 Four Continents Championships in her first ISU championship event, but was slowed by the flu in Colorado. “I just hope to learn a lot at each competition and achieve my personal best each time,” Lee added. “Eventually, I hope to earn Hong Kong a spot in the Olympics for 2010.”

Since Tarasova returned to Russia in 2005, Lee, who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, trains in Simsbury, CT and Aston, PA. She has worked under the tutelage of Uschi Kezler and Ilia Kulik and with Shae Lynne Bourne for program choreography. She trains with Kulik, the 1998 Olympic men’s champion, when he is not on tour. Lee practices for about three hours a day on the ice and one hour off the ice, six days a week during the season and expands her schedule to four to five hours a day, plus another hour to an hour and a half off ice in the summer training.

“I’ve been with Ilia for a little over a year,” Lee said. “He redid everything I did starting from scratch. I had to learn whole new techniques and redo every jump. Now I’m working on the triple loop and I hope to have all five triples in my program by next season. It’s funny because when I first started skating, I skated in Marlborough, MA, where Ilia trained for the 1998 Olympics, and some years later, I was able to train under his direction with lots of caution for my back, because the past injuries sometimes flare up badly, so we have to be careful of my back a lot.” For her current skating programs, Lee uses a triple salchow-double loop as her combination in her short program along with a triple toe loop and a double axel. For her long program, she also includes triple salchow-double loop and double flip-double loop-double loop combinations.

Shae-Lynn Bourne, Kulik and Tatiana Tarasova choreographed her programs for last season. Because she didn’t compete in 2005-06, Lee still has the programs she used that season. Lee skated to “Tango de los Exilados” performed by Vanessa Mae for her short. “I usually choose my own music, though I am open to suggestions and ideas,” she said. “My Dad was a DJ back in college, so I hear a lot of music. I love doing tangos and one day I found some online. I cut the music on the computer with my Dad, who helps me. I take a third from one, a third from another, etc., as I did for this season (2007-2008). I’m really looking forward to this year’s programs, the music is unique.”

Lee also skated to “Sheherezade” by Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov for the long program. “I wanted a classical long program,” she said. “I used to play the piano myself.” Her exhibition program is to “Roxanne”, a tango version. Off ice, Lee listens to the Beatles and alternative rock.

Off ice, Lee enjoys meeting with friends, going to movies, surfing the Internet, and shopping with her sister. “I spend a lot of time on the computer and I like playing Nintendo Wii with my brother and sister,” she added. “I spend most of my free time with my family since I’m not able to spend as much time with them during the week due to training.” She collects souvenirs from skating competitions and penguins. “They’re the hottest animals, like slick blobs that slide around on their tummies. All the girls love them, and for that reason, all the guys want to be them,” she said with a grin. Lee also has two dogs and a hamster named Zorro.

Lee is a graduate from college, where she majored in international relations with a minor in business. She started at Harvard University, and then took online and night courses from other colleges such as Northeastern University. “I plan to go to law school,” she added. “My Dad and my brother are immigration lawyers and I always wanted to help people.”

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