Feb 27, 2017
Choi Da-bin performs her free skate at the Asian Winter Games at Makomanai Indoor Skating Rink in Sapporo, Japan, on Feb. 25, 2017. (Yonhap)
Figure skater Choi Da-bin
made a small piece of history Saturday with her Asian Winter Games
gold medal Saturday, but the 17-year-old remained a picture of modesty.
No South Korean figure skater had won an Asian Games gold, until Choi established her personal best score of 187.54 points to win the women's singles title at Makomanai Indoor Skating Rink.
She finished nearly 12 points ahead of the silver medalist, Li Zijun of China.
Choi Da-bin was the leader after the short program with 61.30 points and also won the free skate with 126.24 points. She said she has surprised herself in Sapporo this week.
"I was shocked that I won the short program, but since my lead was so slim, I wanted to do my free skate without any regrets," Choi said. "In the past, I often disappointed myself because I couldn't execute what I'd done in practice. Today, I think I showed everything that I'd prepared."
Choi, a last-minute injury replacement for Park So-youn, held a 0.32-point lead over Rika Hongo of Japan after the short program. On Saturday, Hongo took herself out of contention with a mistake-filled free skate, while Choi, the last to perform among 24, pulled off a nearly unblemished program.
"I tried not to watch the other skaters," Choi said, when asked if mistakes by those skating before her had any influence on her own performance.
"I wanted to stay focused on my own program," Choi added.
And the teenager didn't make much of the fact that she became the first South Korean champion in Winter Asiad figure skating.
"Some of the top skaters didn't come here because they were preparing for the world championships (next month)," she said. "I am just thankful and happy that I won."
Choi has now broken her personal best scores in total points in back-to-back weeks. Last Sunday, Choi finished fifth at the International Skating Union (ISU) Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in South Korea, while setting then-personal best scores in the short program (61.62), the free skate (116.92) and total points (182.41).
In Sapporo, she came up just shy of surpassing the personal high in the short program but easily outdid herself in the free skate and total points.
Choi Da-bin will look to ride that momentum into the world championships starting March 29 in Finland. She'll be the only South Korean representative, after another injured skater, Kim Na-hyun, conceded her spot, and Choi will skate with spots at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea's PyeongChang at stake.
If Choi finishes in the top two at the worlds, South Korea will receive three berths to the Olympics. Skaters finishing between the third and 10th places will earn two Olympic berths for their country. Anyone below that will bring home one Olympic ticket.
Former Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion Kim Yu-na remains the only South Korean to have ranked inside the top 10 at a world championship.