Exciting news! I will be blogging for MIT Admissions about student life, culture, academics, and everything else in between, inside, and outside. I'm so excited to have the opportunity to share with you all about MIT. I've been having a blast since school started--from late-night p-setting to frat rushing, from hacking to joining new clubs and meeting new people. 


That's me! :D

I'll post most of my content on the admissions blog here: Check out my profile here:! To start off, I've published my very first blog post here:

Can't wait to get started! 



[Life@MIT] Club of Boston sendoff BBQ

The MIT Club of Boston organized a send-off for incoming 19s in the area. Though I hail from California, I've been in town for the summer and joined up with my fellow future classmates for some yummy BBQ and a chance to make new friends and meet current students and alumni. 

We started off with some icebreakers. All of us 19s got in a circle and were handed plates and markers. No one knew what it was for, and I joked to those around me that wouldn't it be funny if we all drew self portraits? 30-seconds or so later, the leader announced that our task at hand was to draw on the plates what we think we'd look like after the first day of school. So I might just very well be a psychic. Anyways, I didn't know what to expect after the first day--would I be happy, excited, nervous, anxious, exhausted, overwhelmed, stressed, content, somewhere in between, or a mix of several emotions? I saw my peers rapidly filling out their plates with their facial features, and I began with drawing my spiky hair. I then drew two eyeballs of differing sizes, kinda like this: O.o. I drew my ears and nose and added eyebrows. For my mouth, I had no clue what my expression would be so I drew a combo of a happy/content expression mixed with an anxious and tired look. Putting my psychic powers aside, I have not a clue what I'd feel like by the end of the first day of school. I guess I'll soon find out!

Free MIT swag!

Branded myself with a tattoo 




Here's a running tally of the notable places I've eaten at in the Boston area. I've organized them by area and included an informal rating out of 10. I don't belong to the Yelp Elite, so take my reviews with a grain of salt. 


Shake Shack 

Is it worth the hype?

Yummy for sure, fresh ingredients, honest flavor. A bit on the small side. Picked up the Shack cheeseburger with a root beer float. Float was big. 8/10


Tasty Burger

Again, is this worth the hype?

Also yummy, fresh ingredients, honest flavor. Neat in-house sauce. Cheeseburger combo. Dig the packaging. 9/10. By the way, any of you Californians out there or those of y'all out there who've had the chance to visit, In-N-Out still reins supreme. Now that's what holds a 10/10. 



Bubor Cha Cha

Ordered family style, the braised tofu with vegetable and beef with garlic sauce. Both delish. Great flavors and fresh ingredients. I've missed my mom's home cooking, and this comes close. 9/10. 

Kung Fu Tea

Best bubble tea in town. Boba is the right consistency, chewy, and just a tad sweet. Regular milk tea is perfectly brewed with the right combo of tea and milk. Also options to lessen sugar and ice.  10/10. 



Didn't write down what I ordered either. But let me tell you one thing: boy, was it tasty and filling. Homemade pasta, great flavor, perfectly cooked. No complaints here. 10/10.


To be continued... Check back for more reviews!



[Life@MIT] How to survive a Boston summer without A/C

Might you find yourself in Boston/Cambridge without any fancy air conditioning units to spare? Well, I got you covered. I've been in Boston for the past 2 weeks, and I've been billeted to an apartment without A/C. Worse yet, it's on the 3rd and top floor of the building. If you don't recall from 3rd grade science, heat rises. Basically, it's HOT. The humidity makes it even worse. - worst case, jump on a bus (if you have a day, week or month pass) and sit there for a bit and cool down with the ac. Worry about getting to where you need to be after you cool down. Props to you if you get on a bus that gets to your destination. 

- stay out of the sun - hide under a tree, wear a hat, walk under an umbrella even though it's not raining

- pretend to shop at CVS or Walgreens or any other store when you're actually just taking advantage of the A/C to cool off before hopping to another CVS/Walgreens/other store down the street

cooling towel  source:

cooling towel source:

- grab yourself a cooling towel. activate it by wetting it first, and you'll magically stay cool. 

- if you have a fan put a wet towel over the fan and it'll blow cool air. Also, try positioning the fan so it blows out the window. That way, you can create a draft in the room.

- put an ice pack next to your head on your pillow.

- sleep next to a window opening if possible. It's probably going to get cooler during the night, so any breeze that enters in will enter through the window, obviously. 

- finally, last tip is to take a really cold shower before you go to bed. 

Worse case scenario, camp out at a CVS. Just kiddin'. Or crash at a friend's with A/C. 



Boston/Cambridge, here I come!

Cambridge/Boston pano -- it's beautiful!

I've finally moved into Boston/Cambridge. I'm currently staying in an apartment outside campus, but it's pretty convenient to take the bus to the Skating Club of Boston. I skate in the mornings, so I usually have the entire afternoon and evening off. And I usually spend those evenings exploring the area and the city. I took a duck tour back when I visited for the first time in 2012, so no more trolley or duck tours for me. I see them all around Boston though. But I think I've conquered most of the touristy places in the Boston area. To name a few, Boston Commons, Faneuil Hall/Quincey Market, North End, Newbury St, Prudential Center, Harvard Square, and of course, MIT. So far, I've learned a few things about Boston:

1. There's construction everywhere. Everywhere. Like everywhere.

2. Never count on the busses coming on time. I've learned that the hard way. I've been left stranded at the bus stop in the blistering heat of a Boston summer after trying to chase down the bus when Google Maps said it'd leave in 3 minutes. Or the bus never comes--or at least it comes much longer than the ETA. CityMapper, the app, is a bit better at real-time bus arrivals. So download that if you plan on taking the busses.

3. Why is it so hard to get a Charlie Card? When I arrived, I realized they were only available at select locations and T stops, but even then, I couldn't find the office at the Harvard Square Station no matter where I looked and the one in Park Street was closed the 3 times I passed by it. I ultimately stuck with a 7-day Charlie Ticket pass. That'll suffice until I can get my hands on my MIT ID card. 

4. Don't touch the bus driver. Or you will be prosecuted, as I've read from the stickers on every bus. I really don't know why anyone would. 

5. Boston is a huge biking city, so there are bikes everywhere. Watch carefully as you cross any streets or intersections. 

6. There are more Dunkin' Donuts (or Dunks - see bullet #8) than Starbucks. This is shocking coming from California. How can there be more of anything per square mile than Starbucks? I think California has less than 10 Dunks altogether. In Boston, though, I've seen two on the same block with a Starbucks caught in between. 

7. Toscanini's--go. The hype is real. I tried the ovaltine, earl grey, and coffee chip flavors. And WOW. 

8. So I've learned that not only do Bostonians speak with a distinct accent, well some do at least, they also use a different set of vocab. i.e. it's called "bubble tea" here as opposed to "boba" on the West Coast. “Dunks" is short for Dunkin’ Donuts. “Wicked” is used a lot. “Bubbler”=water fountain. That’s just a start. 

Anyways, much more to come as I explore Boston/Cambridge in the coming days, weeks, months, and years!



Photos from the 2015 US Championships



2015, here I come!

Wow. What a year 2014 has been. I started off my comeback from an ankle injury with a solid showing in Junior Men at the US Championships, which qualified me for my first international competition. Over the summer, I trained intensively with Olympic coaches in LA, preparing two brand new programs--a passionate tango piece to Astor Piazzolla's "Invierno porteño" and a powerful free skate set to the Thor: The Dark World and Kingdom of Heaven soundtracks--for the 2014-15 season and an increased technical content. 

In September, I competed at my first JGP event--the 2014 ISU JGP Nagoya Cup, in Aichi, Japan. To say the least, I had an amazing time performing to a supportive audience, bonding with my fellow teammates, and brushing up on my rusty conversational Japanese skills. I capped off 2014 with my first Sectional title in Spokane, WA with two solid performances in the short and long program. 

Here I am now in 2015 ready for the 2015 US Championships. Once again, I will be competing in Greensboro, NC, host of the 2011 US Championships. I have fond memories of my first US Championships nearly four years ago, and the welcoming Southern Hospitality. I look forward to improving on my performances of this past year and reaching new heights in 2015. 

Finally, I send a big thank you to all of you out there supporting and cheering me on. Happy New Year!

Spending the first days of 2015 relaxing in Newport Beach



#unselfie #GivingTuesday #USFigureSkating

I volunteer for the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club's Special Skaters program because I want to share my passion for the sport with everyone. All kids should have something new to learn, and have fun doing it! Join me on this #GivingTuesday to donate your time, love or money to those in need! 



A Day in the Life of

5:45  Sluggish getting out of bed, as always.  

6  Quick breakfast, usually peanut butter toast, before warming up for my morning practice session. The frigid rink air wakes me up. I’ve got a full training ahead. Running programs and jumping the first session.

8  Ice cut. I defrost in the heated lobby and nibble on some snacks to keep me going. Back on the ice 15 minutes later to work on spins, choreography and step sequences. 

9:15  Morning session complete, it’s time to cool down with some stretching and refueling. Off to school. 

9:40  First class: AP Environmental Science. After some lectures and note taking, off to study trees. Today it’s the Aesculus californica.

12:55  Lunch time. Rice with chicken and mixed vegetables satisfies my appetite—for now. 

15:05  School’s out! Now back to ice rink for afternoon training. 

17:30  My hair’s all frilled up by this point. Off to do some cross-training—today it’s running around downtown Oakland. 

18:30  Ready for a shower and dinner—more rice, among other dishes. 

19:30  Time to start on some homework: an English essay, textbook reading, Calculus study notes.

21  Need a break. Using this time to update my website with new press articles. 

22  Last-minute reviewing for tomorrow’s AP Computer Science test. Time for bed, sadly. Have to wait until tomorrow to finish David Epstein's The Sports Gene. ‘Night! 



[Photojournal] 2014 JGP Nagoya Cup

Big thank you to Japan, everyone involved with the competition, and the spectators. I had an amazing time competing in your country! I look forward to coming back and competing here again sometime in the near future. 

With my coach, Justin Dillon, in the kiss and cry after my short program

Pic with my fantastic teammates!

Pic with my fantastic teammates!

Team USA with the JSF official

Team USA with the JSF official

The adorable Nagoya Cup mascot 

The adorable Nagoya Cup mascot 

My short program

My free skate



Summer update (2014)

Taken pre-summer 2014, so kinda cheating here. But its the Golden Gate so that's okay, right?

Summer is over--well, meaning school-wise. To think that this is my last summer as a high schooler is unbelievable. Just. One. More. Year. 

Even got a chance to get a pic with Michelle Kwan when she visited!

Anyways, just wanted to give you guys a quick update on my skating. In the past two months, I have been training in supersunny Los Angeles, and while I was down in SoCal, I skated my newly-choreographed programs at two summer competitions. Training has been tough--no surprises here--but my skating has improved tremendously since I first arrived. My first JGP assignment is coming up in less than a month! *Insert superwide grin here.*

Since school is starting again, I have no other option but to return back to the not-so-sunny-but-still-amazing NorCal and to sacrifice my precious training time for completing dreadful homework assignments (I'm scheduled to take 4 APs!) and preparing my college apps for the fall. Fun stuff, indeed. 

I'll try my best to keep you all updated, especially as the 2015 skating season commences in a few weeks!

- Kevin



My setup (2014)

Who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

My name is Kevin Shum, and I proudly call the Bay Area my home. I'm a full-time student and athlete, a Junior at Piedmont High, juggling a rigorous workload of 4 weighted classes with my career as a competitive figure skater representing team USA. Figure skating has consumed nearly all of my life since I started at the age of six, but in the few spare moments I have, I take interest in photography, running, hiking, reading, and coding. Over the years, I've also become a frequent flier, having traveled across the US, Asia, and Europe on numerous occasions, mostly for competitions.

Among other extracurriculars, I also work part time at a local law firm in downtown Oakland and serve as the president of the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club Junior Board. Finally, I am currently developing a new organization and platform called [SkateOn], a global online community committed to providing a platform for figure skaters to connect and interact with one another.

What hardware do you use?

On the ice, I recently switched from Edea boots and Paramount blades to Graf and the new Revolution Pattern 99's. My new skate setup has been working out great so far, aside from frequent but minor cramps and blisters. To recover from intense training sessions, I use foam rollers, the Stick, and tennis balls religiously. I record all my training in a Moleskine notebook, making sure I account for my program and jump run thrus. All of my skating gear is bundled up in a carbon-fibre looking hard-case luggage from Costco. I have a matching pair that I use for traveling.

When I'm not on the ice, I'm most likely typing away on a base model 13" MacBook Air, which I acquired in 2012 using the money I've earned working, an enormous upgrade from a $200-something acer laptop I have previously owned. I shoot photos with a Sony NEX-6 camera, and carry my Space Grey iPhone 5S always.

And what software? I use a lot of apps to run my life. My life is outlined in Workflowy--that is, my goals, my ideas, my notes, my bucket list, my brainstorming and my tasks; Evernote is my digital brain, containing snippets of documents (I use the document scanning feature on my iPhone), web pages, and other notes; Google Calendar organizes everything else in between. Journaling at the end of each day with DayOne keeps me grounded and sane. I use Lift to track my goals and habits. SAT Question of the Day also lives on my homescreen--gotta practice those sentence completions.

I utilize Google services so much so that I wouldn't know what to do without Google search, Chrome, Gmail, Docs, Maps, Hangouts and YouTube. My photos are synced with Dropbox, and I edit and post my photos with VSCO Cam and Instagram. Squarespace hosts my website and blog; I occasionally post random things on Twitter, and I communicate with mankind through Facebook Messenger, LINE, and Snapchat.

On iOS and OSX, I also use: Clear for lists, Sleep Cycle tracks my daily sleep deficits, Kindle for reading, StudyBlue for flashcards, Elevatr for brainstorming, Behance for inspiration, Spotify for music, Pocket for read-it-later articles, Feedly for RSS, 1Password for, well, passwords, f.lux to keep my eyes sane at night, and UlyssesIII for writing.

What would be your dream setup?

Skates that form perfectly to my feet and have a longer life-span. Skating boot and blade technology have been relatively stagnant over the past century, so new innovation in these areas would be both welcomed and exciting. All I can do now is just hope someone out there is looking to become a pioneer in this field. I also have to admit that I daydream about skating in a board-less Olympic-sized arena at a comfortable temperature at around 50 degrees with the perfect texture ice. Oh, and a more advanced music system that does not require tags, wires or any of that sort. No more CDs, iPods, music ID tags, or 3.5mm headphone jacks please.

As for my dream technology setup, one of those wooden adjustable standing-sitting desks sounds inciting, as well as an ergonomic chair. Also, a thinner, lighter and more compact 13" Retina MacBook Air would be my dream laptop, with a comfortable amount of RAM.



Season in review (2014)

My respective long and short costumes. 

The 2013-2014 season has finally come to an end. 

This season marked my return to the competitive scene after a year-and-a-half hiatus due to a nagging ankle injury. I returned back onto the ice in the late summer of '13, gradually readjusting to the feeling of blades on ice.  As I regained most of my strength in my right ankle, I slowly taught myself to jump again--starting with single jumps and on to doubles, and eventually, triples. 

I got new programs--"Clocks" by 2CELLO for my short and music from The Lone Ranger for the free skate--choreographed in late-July/early August, passed my Junior free skate test, and competed in a few local competitions in the fall. I received a bye to the 2014 Pacific Coast Sectional Championships in November and finished in 3rd place, which qualified me for Nationals in early January.  Concurrently, junior year was gearing up in full swing, and I was juggling a full schedule with four weighted classes along with the demands of training for Nationals. 

I placed a respectable 6th at the 2014 U.S. National Championships held in Boston with two clean performances--and triple-triples in both programs as well! I had very little expectations coming into Boston, as I was still re-familiarizing myself with the sport--training, jumping, and especially, competing--after taking such a long break. 

A few weeks later, I received news that I would be representing the USA at my first international competition, Challenge Cup, in The Hague, Netherlands. I was beyond ecstatic that I was selected onto Team USA, especially after receiving the coveted and my long-awaited Team USA jacket and other related team gear. And traveling to this competition would mark my first time setting foot on European soil--another added plus!

For the next month, I trained intensively. I was in better shape than I ever had been, both pre- and post-injury, and had increased the difficulty of both my programs with the addition of a 3Lz3T combination in both and a 3F in my free skate. However, two weeks before my departure date, my skates started breaking down. I frantically switched to a new pair of boots, which broke down in less than four days, and ultimately switched to a new brand (I'm now in Graf's). Throughout the process of having to break into new skates, I not only lost a week-and-a-half of precious training time but confidence in my jumps as well. Nonetheless, in the days leading up to my departure, I had regained most, if not all, of my confidence, and most importantly, my boots were in prime operative mode and everything seemed to be falling back into place at just the right time. 

I arrived in the Netherlands with hope and optimism that all would work out for the better. I ended up in 5th overall, after placing 3rd in the short and 6th in the long program. In the short program, I fell on the easiest jump, a 2A, near the end of my program. My free skate, in contrast, was a entirely different story. I slipped on the entrance flying sit spin early in the program and suffered a hard fall (and bruise) to my entire left side. I made several more mistakes after that, missing both 2A's, and unfortunately, I couldn't make it up point-wise to maintain a podium finish. Afterwards, despite the my strokes of bad luck leading up to this event, I was quite disappointed with not showing what I was capable of. I took this entire competition, however, as yet another learning experience that I could build off of in the future. On a brighter note, I did meet some amazing people throughout the competition, not only my teammates, but other competitors from various nations as well. 

With the end of the 2014 season marks the beginning of the upcoming 2014-2015 season. In the meantime, I'll be here at home in California continuing both my studies and training. I look forward to yet another exciting year in skating and hope to continue the momentum from the past season in the coming year. I'll keep you all updated!

- Kevin




Temescal x Spring

I went on a weekend run after finishing a session of SAT tutoring at one of my favorite spots in the Bay Area--Lake Temescal. The lake is both a small reservoir and a regional park tucked among the hills of Oakland and Piedmont that is conveniently located just a few minutes away from my house. 

Today, in particular, was a bright, sunny and charming afternoon with a multitude of visitors--runners, hikers, walkers, bikers, dog walkers, fishermen, beachgoers, picnickers, bar-be-queers, mothers, fathers, families, adults and children alike. After I took a satisfying one-and-a-half mile run around the embankments of the lake, I spent a fair amount of time enjoying the lovely California sunshine and photographing nature showing early signs of spring--and a selfie, of course. California poppies scattered the landscape, along with other native flowers and plants. The trees were full and beamed with various shades of green. The lake shimmered under the radiant sunlight. It was as if nature was calling out, "Spring is here, spring is here!" at every potential moment. 

Indeed, spring has arrived. 


What's a afternoon worth without a selfie?



Kevin to make his international debut at the 2014 Challenge Cup

Big news! I have been assigned to compete at the 2014 Challenge Cup in The Hague, Netherlands, which will be held from March 6 to March 9. Words cannot express how greatly honored and excited I am to be making my international debut in a few weeks. Be sure to check out my blog in the coming weeks as I will be posting blog updates and photos throughout the competition.

Until then, see you soon in the Netherlands!

Sporting my new Team USA apparel



Looking back on 2013

Celebrating Kevin Shum Day on the eve of 2014 in front of Oakland's City Hall

Looking back on 2013 as a whole, it's been one extremely tough journey—full of ups and downs, successes and disappointments, achievements and obstacles–and yet, I've remarkably managed to get to where I am right now, right here, stronger than ever. In retrospect, I’ve definitely matured and learned a great deal more about myself throughout the course of the year.

One of my biggest ‘developments’ or obstacles that I've faced this past year was returning back onto the ice and getting back into my pre-injured shape. It's been less than five months since I successfully returned to the competitive scene, and with the 2014 U.S. National Championships less than a week away, it’s almost felt too surreal that I will be skating among the best of the best and it's the Olympic year. Despite all the struggles I've faced--and continue to face--I feel so fortunate, grateful, and blessed to have been able to end the year on such a strong note. I have so much to be thankful for, especially for all the support I've received from my coaches, my close buddies, and my mom every step of the way. 

So here's to 2014: the start of a new year, the promise of new opportunities, new endeavors, and new experiences that hopefully will enrich our lives for the better. Hoping for an even greater, more exciting year ahead--2014, here I come!



Indigenous Peoples Day

Me attending at the Indigenous Peoples Day event in Berkeley, CA

The Indigenous Peoples Day event in Berkeley, CA was one of the more interesting events I have been to, for lack of a better word. Although it wasn't quite as big of an event as I expected it to be, it was unique in that different tribal groups dressed in their own traditional tribal attire and bonded over their common identity as Native Americans. The whole event, interestingly, was centered about a circle--booths and spectators surrounded a circular area designated for the dancing and other main attractions. Perhaps the circle symbolically represents a never-ending cycle of life--the rebirth and death--or perhaps it serves as a representation of unity and community. Indigenous Peoples Day, to me, seems to encompass a greater significance for the future of the natives. This event serves as a reminder of the fact that the natives did have a civilized way of life and a developed society that was deeply connected the the natural and spiritual world, as was indicated by the tribal dancing and music. The arrival of Columbus and the European colonization of the Americas truly altered the way of life for the indigenous natives, for better or for worse depending on either perspective. Even today, the Native Americans unfortunately still lack a formal holiday or a day of remembrance. I feel like Columbus Day is more of a way to hide America’s darker parts of its history than it is to celebrate the achievements of the “great explorer.” But instead of mourning for their losses, the greater native American community seems to have adapted Columbus Day as a day to celebrate as their own--as a day to unite as a group, to celebrate their common heritage, and to strengthen their identities as Native Americans.




My skating story, so far

I was six years old when I laced on a pair of skates and took my first steps on the ice. I have vague memories of that day. All I do remember was that I clung onto the boards, all the while watching my brother in the corner of my eye effortlessly skating across the ice--one time around, then two times around, again and again. But I was still only meters away from the rink doors, cautiously taking small steps along the perimeter of the rink.

A lot has changed in ten years. 

No longer do I need to cling onto the boards. But getting to this point has not been easy. Saying that I've been through a lot is an understatement at best--it's been one hell of a journey. 

The beginnings

My early days of skating were marked by tagging along with my older brother. He started skating first, but not long after my first time on the ice, my mom signed us up for skating lessons at the local ice rink. I was enrolled in the lowest level, Snowball, while my brother was enrolled two levels above me in Beginner 2. While we both gradually moved up in the skating school achievement ladder, skating still was just a fun after-school activity we both did--hardly dreaming to become a competitive skater one day. 

We only went to the rink for the classes twice a week and 'practiced' during the given thirty minutes of ice time after our lessons. It was not until my brother was noticed by his group teacher, who noted his potential and how he could quickly improve with some private lessons. My parents reluctantly agreed, and we began to skate more often. Instead of wandering off or practicing on my own during my brother's lessons, I would stay in close proximity to him, close enough to see what he was up to and to hear what his coach was telling him to do. And then, I would attempt to imitate whatever my brother was doing. This continued on for some time, until the coach noticed my "yearning to skate" and my parents again reluctantly agreed to have private coaching for both of their sons.  

Thanks to the private coaching we received outside of group classes, we quickly began to ascend through the skating school, adding another ribbon and certificate into our ever-growing collection as we passed each level. I also began testing in the USFSA category, starting at pre-preliminary 1, and then got my first program (to Puttin' on the Ritz), and began competing at small, local competitions. Along the way, my brother's interest in figure skating began to diminish, and he eventually quit altogether. But I stuck with the sport, and it was something I looked forward to daily. I then spent more and more time at the rink, especially during the summer when I would basically "live" at the rink. My mom would drop me off in the morning, and I would stay until late-afternoon, skating up to six hours a day. I put more and more time and effort into skating, working harder, taking more lessons. 

But many sacrifices had to be made. All the free time I had, I would spend it at the rink. Playdates, sleepovers, family vacations--I had very few of them. Financially, it hasn't been easy for my family either. Skating is an expensive sport--coaching fees, competition fees, traveling fees, costume fees, ice time fees, and new skates add up to thousands and thousands of dollars a year at the expense of my parents' paychecks--but my family has been supportive the whole way through, which I can't thank them enough for. 

Junior nationals, 2008

I qualified to my first national championships in the Juvenile level after placing 2nd at Regionals. I didn't know what to expect when I arrived in Salt Lake City, but I had trained hard and was well prepared. I was still only ten years old, and I was in awe watching others effortlessly land double axels and triples. Then came the day for the qualifying round, and I surprised myself by placing first in one of the two groups. I dismissed my early victory as a stroke of good luck: I had skated my best when others faltered. 

Final round came two days later. I had to once again perform at my personal best in order to place in the top ten. The final result came by surprise--I ended up in first place. I had absolutely no expectations coming in to this competition, and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would end up standing at the top of the podium during the awards ceremony. Initially, I didn't even believe I ended up in first. There must have been one other skater who did better than me, I thought. I even asked my coach to get my protocol and the printed final results to confirm my victory. I looked up to the very top of the list, and there my name was right next to the number one. I still couldn't believe it; I was in utter shock. 

The awards ceremony came right after my event. After receiving flowers, my medal, and a glass trophy, I remember thinking, This must be how all those Olympic champions on TV feel like when they receive their gold medal and a bouquet of flowers and wave to the audience and the millions of people watching from around the world. That was the moment that my dreams of becoming an Olympian began. I dreamed of the day that the American national anthem would be playing, and an Olympic gold would be hanging around my neck.

My (more than) fair share of double axels

After I came back home, I was instantly back into training. I was really motivated after the event to improve my skills and expand my jumping arsenal. First off, I was determined to get a double axel. But days, months, and even a year passed by with no luck. By the time the Junior National Championships in 2009 came, I still had yet to land a clean one. One whole year and still no double axel. I ended up in seventh that year in the Intermediate level--disappointing to say the least. 

When I got back home, I was even more determined to get that jump. Fall after fall, mistake after mistake, miss after miss, I felt devastated and frustrated and angry at myself. I knew and believed that I was fully capable of doing it, but attempt after attempt, my will was slowly diminishing. Even others--my coach, my parents--began losing faith in me. If I don't get this jump by the end of this season, I will quit, I swore to myself. But deep down, I knew I would never be able to give up this sport. I've lived and breathed skating for almost half my life, and I knew I could not give up that easily. I am stronger than that, I forced myself to believe. 

All that only pushed me to work harder and gave me even more motivation to prove them wrong. Then, on a summer afternoon, I landed my first double axel. 

Triples, triples, triples and 'big boy' nationals

After finally getting a double axel, triples were much, much easier to master. Within less than a year, I had a consistent triple salchow, toe and loop. Then came time for my first sectional championships in the Novice division, the 2011 Pacific Coasts. 

A week before the even, I caught a cold, and was feeling ill-prepared to compete. I had lost some precious training time and my stamina was running low. I managed to get through a short program with two triples, but popped a double axel at the end of my program and was in fourth place going into the free skate. Only the top four make it to Nationals, and I was cutting it close. Then came the day for the long program. Feeling uneasy that day, I made numerous mistakes throughout the program and ended up finishing fifth overall. That meant I did not qualify for nationals. I was devastated. I had came to Sectionals, only to end up as the first alternate. 

A week and a half before 2011 Nationals began, I got a phone call from USFSA saying that a skater, who ended up in the top four at sectionals, was injured and withdrew. Since I was first alternate, that meant I was going to compete in his spot; I would be going to my first 'big boy' nationals. My mom frantically booked hotel and flight reservations while I was training my programs once again. I had little time to prepare, but I came to nationals excited and nervous. 

The moment I stepped into the main arena, I was immediately wowed by how enormous the rink and arena looked. I would be skating on the same ice as the elite senior skaters, the same ice that is broadcasted on TV every year. Skating on arena ice was completely new to me: the lights were brighter, the ceilings were much higher, and there were seats surrounding the entire rink, up to the very, very top. This was all very exciting--I couldn't believe I actually belonged here as a competitor. I was in awe, and it was an honor to compete at the 'real' nationals. I had little expectations coming in--I was ill-prepared, and my main goal was to learn from this experience as much as possible. 

In the short, I botched a triple loop attempt and ended up in ninth. In the free skate, I landed three triples, but fell twice. Overall, I ended up in ninth place. The results to me didn't matter. I did my best under the conditions I was in, and since my job was done, I had a whole week to relax and enjoy watching the juniors and seniors compete for the national titles. 

I watched Ryan Bradley win his national title, and Alissa Czisny win hers. Watching the competitors warm up, get on the ice, the rare standing ovations, experiencing the vibe in the arena live, in person--it was all a magical experience. Next year, I hoped, I would rightfully earn a spot at nationals, for real this time. I was more motivated than ever before. 

San Jose, here I come

2012 Nationals would be in San Jose, California--a mere hour drive from my hometown and training town--and I knew I had to work harder than I ever had if I wanted to qualify and skate my best at the championships. 

By the time sectionals came, this time I was well-prepared. After the short program, I was in second place. However, the next day, I dropped down to third. Why? I had attempted a triple-triple combination, and someone realized that it was an 'illegal' element in the Novice Men short program. I had lost nine or so points, but luckily, I was still in qualifying position. With no time or energy to be weighed down with this 'controversy' as to whether or not the scores could be changed after they were posted officially, I went into the free skate knowing as long as I did my job, I would have no trouble making it to nationals. 

I landed six triples and ended up in second place overall. Nationals was just two months away. 

I worked harder than ever before, so that when the most important time came I vowed to have absolutely no regrets. I trained six days a week, mornings and afternoons--and I was exhausted by the end of the week, but I pushed on. I wanted to be on the podium this time so badly, and for this season, I had more expectations and pressure to skate well than ever before. Nationals was just outside my hometown, my training town. My parents would be watching, my family would be watching, my friends would be watching, my school and my community would be watching. The pressure was slowly building up.

When I stepped onto the arena ice for the first time, I instantly knew what I had to do: to go out there and to skate like I have been skating in practice. That's it. I hoped that my hard work was going to pay off. And it did, sort of. I skated a clean short, the best I've skated the program all year, and was in second place. By the time the free skate came, I was a nervous wreak and broke down from the pressure I felt. I popped the first three triples, but went on to land three other ones. It was barely enough to hang on to the podium--I ended up in fourth place overall. Backstage, I cried. I was devastated once again. How could I have missed three jumps in a row? I knew I could have done better, much better. I just wanted to go back out on the ice and erase what had just happened, but I couldn't. 

Injury and hiatus

One month after nationals, I started working on triple axels. And then, I sprained my right ankle on an attempt. I thought I would quickly recover from the sprain, but the pain never went away. 

A few months later, I got it checked by a doctor and was put into a cast and crutches. A whole summer went by, and all I could do was sit at home. It was a tough period to get through. I watched others skate, but I myself couldn't. I wanted to get back onto the ice, but I was stuck at home all day long. I didn't know what to make of it. Then, after I got the cast removed, the pain still lingered. 

I gave up skating altogether after I tried getting back onto the ice, with little success. I tried to remove myself from everything skating as much as I could and distracted myself with school and other stuff. I tried hard not to think that I would never be able to jump and skate again. I went to several doctors but there was no treatment for my injury available, except surgery. And that was it. I was at a loss, not knowing what to do next. My whole life since I was five, for nine years, was surrounded by this sport. Every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year my mind was thinking about skating, skating, skating. 

I tried my best not to think about it.

Recovery (kind of) and comeback

I went back to Hong Kong for more than a month this summer to get traditional Chinese treatment, like acupuncture, cupping and tui-na. My ankle felt better after the treatment, but it still was not 100% pain-free.

I slowly started getting back onto the ice, and though I still felt some pain, I started jumping and gradually got my strength back. I started doing triples again. My muscle memory, surprisingly, was still intact. Most importantly, my self-confidence, self-belief, slowly started building up again--I was back on the ice once again. 

Moving forward

I'm planning to return to the competitive scene, after a year hiatus. It's been one exhausting and extensive journey to one day be able to realize my Olympic dreams. But dreams, essentially, are still just dreams. I'm not sure how it's going to turn out, but nonetheless, I'm optimistic and hopeful as new challenges and a new season await. Hopefully, this is just the introduction, the start, and the beginning of my skating story. 



Fall update

I started my junior year last week.  Unfortunately due to the combination of my training schedule, school, and SAT prep, I will only be able to blog occasionally until I adjust to this my hectic and busy schedule. 

So far, in the past month, skating-wise:

  • I passed my Junior free skate test and will be competing in Junior Men this year.

Me next to the competition arena

  • I competed for the first time in more than one-and-a-half years at a small, local competition. Since I was the only competitor, it felt more like I "performed," not competed. It was nice to get out there and skate in front of judges for the first time since my injury.

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 - Kevin