When I was 13, I remember watching Tara Lipinski (USA) at the 1998 Winter Olympics. She caught my attention because we shared the same name. The actual sport caught my attention, too — the spins, jumps, costumes, music, elegance — they captivated me. After, my interest in figure skating wavered on and off, but in 2009, my interest in the sport grew. I watched the Four Continents Figure Skating Championship (4CC for short), and I became a regular follower of the men’s singles and ladies’ singles events. This interest led me to go on a day trip to the 2017 4CC event in Gangneung, South Korea.
Getting to Gangneung
Gangneung is about two hours and forty minutes away by bus. Waking up early was rough, for I was taking the 6:20 am bus, but I managed to take a nap. At the rest stop, I saw a sign on the toilet door saying to “[r]ush the used toilet paper as it is”. In Korean, the sign says to throw the toilet paper in the toilet because it dissolves. Typically, there’s a separate rubbish bin next to the toilets for us to dispose toilet papers in, but I guess not this toilet. Anyway, I “rushed” my toilet paper as it had requested, haha!
Reaching the Rink
I reached Gangneung, and the city dismayed me by its countryish appearance and aura. I sense that the area’s not quite ready for the Winter Olympics next year. That aside, I had no problems taking a cab to the ice arena, which is about fifteen minutes away. The arena is out in the boondocks, and that made me realise something crucial. Rather than musing on that something, I walked around in circles trying to find the spectator’s entrance. Once I found it, I picked up my tickets for the men’s free skate and the exhibition gala, and I waited to go in. There I talked with an American woman who was also a figure skating fan.
Waiting and Watching
Once I made it into the rink, I spent a lot of time waiting and watching. Hanyu Yuzuru (JPN) interested me the most, but he skated in the last group. I had to wait through 22 other skaters. Thankfully, a few other skaters interested me, and I watched and observed the following:
- Nam Nguyen (CAN) had a solid free skate. He was the first contestant that made me go, “Niiiice!”
- Michael Christian Martinez (PHI), who may not be of the same calibre as the top skaters, impressed me. He came a long way since the 2014 Winter Olympics.
- Julian Zhi Jie Yee (MAS) turned out to be a pleasant surprise!
- Jason Brown (USA) displayed wonderful musicality and emotion in his skate, which boosted his programme components score. I also noticed that he did a lot of moves that are usually done by the female skaters.
- Misha Ge (UZB) was also another I looked forward to, and I enjoyed his free skate as well.
- The three Korean skaters pretty much tore the house down from all the cheering . . . but I wasn’t too impressed with them. Of the three, I liked Kim Jin-seon (KOR) the most.
Yelling for Yuzuru
Three hours later, the last group finally came into the rink. I only had eyes for Hanyu — he’s all that mattered to me at this point. Though I will say that Jin Boyang (CHN), Patrick Chan (CAN), and Uno Shouma (JPN) were on my radar, too. XD That aside, I was super stoked when Hanyu finally came out! It was exhilarating to see Hanyu skate live. I cheered and clapped my heart out. There was a jump combination he flubbed, but he had no falls. He was absolutely brilliant. Asdfjkl;!!! I had a stupidly goofy smile on my face for him, haha! When he finished, the rink exploded with flowers and gifts; I have seen enough Pooh Bears to last a lifetime!
Medalling the Medalists
Hanyu didn’t win the gold medal :( He wasn’t able to overcome Nathan Chen (USA), who beat him by 3.75 points for the combined total of their short and free programmes. Last, but not least, Uno won the bronze. They did the medal ceremony for the three lads, and we all stood up to the US national anthem.
Escaping the Exhibition
I had to wait two hours for the gala exhibition to start. When it did start, I only stayed to watch for the first hour. I can’t say I enjoyed it. I was too knackered and far up to be able to see much, even on their video screen. Also, remember that crucial something I mentioned above? The arena is out in the boondocks, right? That means, there aren’t many cabs driving around. Imagine if I were to try and hail a cab with hundreds of other people, I don’t, and I miss my bus. Staying overnight in Gangneung on the streets did not appeal to me. So I made the decision to leave early. A cab pulled up as I left the arena, so lucky me! Talking to the cab driver confirmed my decision to leave early. Even he said it would have been impossible to catch or call a cab when the event ended. Thank goodness for my foresight!
In the end, I’m glad I attended my very first figure skating event. I enjoyed seeing the skaters perform live. I didn’t get a chance to meet any of my favourites, but seeing them from afar is good enough for me. This day trip was worth my time! I also visited a new city in South Korea. It didn’t quite win me over as Sokcho did, but I can at least scratch it off my imaginary list! 4CC was a great experience, but it has shown me that I am to not attend any of the Olympics events next year. 4CC was crazy as it is, so I can only imagine the chaos with the Olympics! I may attend if I can get a place to stay in the area, but I know that entire part of Korea will be completely booked! I’ll stay in the west and watch the events on TV, haha!