It's all about overcoming adversity for South Korean figure skaters trying to qualify for next year's Winter Olympics on home ice.
The national team trials for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games will begin with the Figure Skating Korea Challenge at Mokdong Ice Rink Seoul. The juniors will vie for spots in the upcoming International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix season starting Friday, while the seniors' competition starts Saturday.
The Korea Skating Union will hold another qualifying competition in December, and then the national championships in January will be the third and final event for Olympic hopefuls. Combined scores from these three events will determine who will represent the host country at PyeongChang 2018.
South Korean figure skater Choi Da-bin takes part in an open practice at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul ahead of the Figure Skating Korea Challenge on July 27, 2017. (Yonhap)
In the women's singles, South Korea has secured two spots in PyeongChang, after Choi Da-bin finished 10th at the world championships in March. Skaters finishing in the top two at the world championships bring home three Olympic tickets, while those ranked from third to 10th each earn two Olympic berths for their countries.
No one among the contestants has suffered quite the tragedy that Choi has. The 17-year-old's mother passed away in June, and she admitted she had to pull herself together to get ready for the competition.
"I am going through a difficult time, but I am trying to stay strong," Choi said at the pre-competition press conference. "I thought about pulling out of this event, but I felt like I'd have regrets if I didn't skate here."
Choi, who won the Asian Winter Games gold medal in February, has also experienced issues with her new boots. She ordered a new pair during the offseason, but has had to tinker with them to get them to fit.
"I've only had a couple of weeks of training because of the boots," she said. "I am worried about my conditioning."
One of Choi's rivals, Kim Na-hyun, is coming off a frustrating season. She battled ankle pains over the latter half of last season and had to pull out of the world championships. Choi ended up being Kim's replacement, and she cracked the top 10 to win two Olympic spots for South Korea.
Kim said she's gotten much better physically and ready for the competition for Olympic spots.
"Now that I have an opportunity (to make it to the Olympics), I'll do the best I can to execute clean programs," Kim said. "For now, I've put together less challenging programs to ease myself back into competition, and hopefully I'll be back to the normal level of difficulty in later events." (Yonhap)