Sophomore Katherine Chang Reclaims Passion for Figure Skating


Erin Choi

Every Saturday mornings, sophomore and figure skater Katherine Chang practices at the Great Park ice rink in Orange County. Chang has been skating since she was 5 years old.

Sophomore Katherine Chang steps into the rink, cheeks flushed red from the cold air. She glides to the center of the rink. Three seconds later, she braces against her skates and jumps, rotating mid-air before coming back to the ground. 

Unbeknownst to the uninformed spectator, a jump’s effortlessness is only possible with strength.

“Most figure skaters are short and skinny, but they’re strong, mentally and physically,” Chang said. “My sport is a performance, an aesthetic sport. People expect you to skate perfectly every time you compete. That’s the ideal image: what you see in the Olympics.”

As Chang entered high school, she took a break from skating as she involved herself in new activities: competitive cheer, track and even a new instrument, the violin. Unexpectedly, these activities only reinforced that skating is her true love. 

“I felt lost [before my break],” Chang said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I was always worried about what others thought of me. No one ever pressured me to compete, but I felt obligated. I went back to skating because I wanted to rediscover my passion and be a stronger and better athlete than before.” 

Success in figure skating is highly dependent on the condition of the skater’s body: shape, height and weight. When a skater undergoes puberty, their bodily changes necessitate adjustments to technique. According to Chang, re-perfecting these techniques is most gratifying.

“The jump may not be perfect: it can always have more height, more rotation, a better landing,” Chang said. “But the progress that I make whenever I have good days is always a great feeling, and it’s especially rewarding when I’ve worked for a long time.” 

Chang’s long-term goal was to be a USFS gold medalist, which requires passing every level of competition: regional, state and national. Now, she places greater emphasis on skating for her own enjoyment. 

“Figure skating made me learn so much about myself,” Chang said. “No matter when I choose to stop skating, either in college or in a year or two, I want to feel proud of the progress I’ve made.”