A Korean girl shot across the figure skating universe like a comet over the weekend.
And while she certainly could blaze another such trail in the future, it may seem for a while that You Young is on a path like Halley’s Comet, which comes around about every 75 years.
You turned the South Korean women’s senior championship into an oxymoron by winning it Sunday at age 11. But she won’t be age eligible for an Olympics until the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
It means she can’t have the once-in-a-time experience of competing at a Winter Games in her home country.
That’s good because no athlete her age – or even one considerably older - should be subjected to the pressure You would face were she to skate at the Pyeongchang, South Korea, Olympics in 2018.
Yuna Kim had the hopes of millions of compatriots on her shoulders when she won the 2010 Olympic gold medal thousands of miles away in Vancouver. That Yuna did not crack under that weight made her Olympic skates (both clean) among the greatest performances under pressure in any sport.
And Yuna was 19. You Young would be only 13 at the time of the 2018 Olympics.
International Skating Union rules prevent a skater from competing at senior competitions, which include the Olympics, unless he or she has turned 15 by July 1 of the year before that competition. That means You’s first shot at senior worlds is five years from now – 2020.
Because she was born May 27, 2004, You can’t even compete on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, where the minimum is 13 by July 1, until the 2017-18 season.
We all are guilty of getting carried away by the sight of the possible next big thing. So why all the fuss about an 11-year-old barely known in her own country a week ago?
Watch the fan-shot video of her free skate (below), and you will see.
She landed seven clean triple jumps, including two triple lutzes (one in triple-triple combination). Her spins are centered, the rotations tight and fast. Her arm movements are controlled. Her stage presence is formidable. She also won the short program.
“Of course, I thought the gold medal would go to an older skater," You told media after the final.
According to a Korean tweeter, You displayed a veteran’s calm despite a seven-minute delay before the free skate because of computer issues. And she won despite the judges’ showing admirable restraint in their component scores.
And just read what Yuna told the Korean press, as reported by Chosun Ilbo:
"She is better than I was at her age. I hope she works hard on the basics and takes care to avoid injuries."
Yuna was a grizzled 12-year-old, then the youngest Korean senior champion ever, when she won her first title in 2003. She would battle a number of injuries over a career that produced her first senior world medal (bronze) at 16, then two senior world titles and a second Olympic medal, silver, in 2014, after which she retired from competition at 23.
She remains one of her country’s most popular (and wealthiest) athletes, with a laundry list of big-name endorsements.
Amazingly, Yuna had seemingly come from nowhere: the first figure skater of any renown in South Korea. Her profile and success have become an inspiration to skaters like You, who lived from age 2 to about age 11 in Singapore, where she reportedly watched videos of Yuna religiously.
The oldest of the top four women’s finishers at this Korean Championships is 15 (the runner-up.) Nos. 3 and 4 are 12. That meant they were reaching an impressionable age just as Yuna was winning her first world title in 2009.
From now until late summer 2017, when she could skate at Junior Grand Prix events, You Young will essentially be on the dark side of the moon.
When she emerges onto the global stage – and in the years to follow, with the morphology changes brought on by young womanhood – there is no predicting whether she will be able to set the skating world ablaze again. The way she lit up a Seoul rink for four minutes Sunday makes it worth waiting to find out.