Rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae sets sights on Olympics
recent years, several of Korea’s young female athletes have received
the spotlight at home and abroad for the charm and flourish with which
they distinguish themselves in sports historically led by European
athletes. Along with figure skating, which is dominated internationally
by Olympic gold medalist Kim Yu-na, rhythmic gymnastics is another sport
that is beginning to find a following among Koreans.
At the center of the buzz is 18-year-old Son Yeon-jae, dubbed Korea’s “gymnastics fairy” by her fans.
Son recently secured a spot at the 2012 London Olympics after placing
eleventh in the individual all-around final at the 2011 World Rhythmic
Gymnastics Championships in Montpellier, France, where the top 15
finalists were slated to go on to compete in London. Local sports fans
and commentators took note of Son’s performance, and especially the
record improvement she showed since her first run at the 2010 World
Championships in Moscow, where she finished in 32nd.
Son, who is currently undergoing intensive training at the famed
Novogorsk Training Center outside of Moscow to prepare for her Olympic
debut, arrived in Korea last December 15 for a brief holiday. Giving up
vacation time to continue with her rigorous practice regimen, Son met
with fellow national teammate Kim Yun-hee for daily eight-hour
practices, attended physical therapy three times a week, and worked on
her expression skills at a jazz class two times a week.
On December 21, Son appeared in an interview with News Y, Yonhap News
Agency’s all-news cable channel, where she expressed her determination
to place among the top ten and compete in the finals in London.
On the 26th, Choe Kwang-sik, Minister of Sports, Culture and Tourism,
invited Son and her mother to the Ministry to congratulate her on her
accomplishments and hear about her Olympic aspirations.
“I haven’t missed any of your performances,” said Choe to Son. “Like all
Koreans, I watch with my breath held. We’re so proud of you for earning
your way to the Olympics.”
“In order to be acknowledged in the gymnastics world, I will need to
work harder, motivating myself to continue competing in a variety of
international events,” said Son, who thanked Choe for his encouragement.
Son has been praised for her exceptional agility, flexibility, and
balance, and also for being very adept at handling the ball apparatus
used in the sport. Assessments suggest that she will need to raise her
average score by at least 27 points in order to reach the final round at
the London games.
Son first arrived on the gymnastics scene in 2009, becoming the first
Korean three-time medalist in the international junior championships.
With her cute features and winning smile, the fresh-faced teen piqued
the interest of many a Korean in the previously unknown sport of
In 2010, Son won the bronze medal in the individual all-around final
event at the Guangzhou Asian Games, becoming the first Korean athlete to
earn a medal in rhythmic gymnastics since the sport was first adopted
as an official event at the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games.
“Many more Koreans are showing an interest in rhythmic gymnastics than
before, but there is still a lot of room for growth, “added Son in her
meeting with Choe. “In Korea, I often have to practice by myself, and
there aren’t many facilities besides the ones at my school. I hope more
people will come to love the sport, so that we can enjoy it together.”
Sourced from Korea.net
Adapted from Weekly Gonggam Magazine