By Joo Kyung-don
GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's pairs figure skating teams said Saturday that an International Skating Union (ISU) competition on home ice was a big learning experience that could take them to the next level.
South Korea sent three teams to the pairs event at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, some 230 kilometers east of Seoul. None of them made it into the top 10, but they all said they learned a lot from their first-ever Four Continents appearance.
Among South Koreans, Kim Su-yeon and Kim Hyung-tae had the best result. The siblings finished 12th among 15 teams with a total score of 140.68 points. In particular, they posted their personal best score in free skating with 90.80, surpassing the previous record by 12.50.
Their score was far below the competition champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, the Chinese pair who marked 225.03 to claim their fourth Four Continents title. But still, the South Korean pair was happy.
"I think our score was higher than we thought," said Kim Hyung-tae. "I still think the world level is still high for us. We made some small mistakes, but overall there are no regrets."
Kim Su-yeon, the youngest skater at this Four Continents at age 15, said the competition overall has been a good experience for her. She was especially happy to see world's top class skaters.
"I was happy that I was in the same competition with my idol Meagan Duhamel (of Canada)," she said. "I'm happy that we surpassed 90 points in the free for the first time, and we'll work harder to collect more than 100 points next time."
For Ji Min-ji and Themistocles Leftheris, another South Korean representative, they had a somewhat disappointing result here. The pair finished their first Four Continents in 14th place with a score of 129.19, far below than their personal best of 143.40.
Leftheris is an American citizen, but is seeking naturalization to compete at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next year with Ji.
At ISU competitions, as long as one member of a tandem is South Korean, that duo can compete under the South Korean flag. At the Olympics, however, both members of a team must be South Korean citizens to represent the country.
"We still need more experience," said Leftheris, who has been skating together with Ji since 2015. "For this competition, we were not consistent. We're going to try to take a lot from this competition to improve on elements and gain levels."
During the free skating, Ji fell to the ice while the tandem was about to switch from a forward inside death spiral to a change foot combination spin. The 17-year-old lamented her mistakes.
"I made mistakes at the point where I should not have," she said. "It's also pity that we couldn't show the triple twist lift because of Themi's shoulder and lower back injuries."
Kim Kyu-eun and Kam Kang-chan, who finished last among 15 pairs, said they believe their experience at the Four Continents will take them to the next level. The pair scored 118.91 in total, after marking 41.06 in the short program and 77.85 in the free skating, both the lowest among 15 teams here.
"This was the biggest event that we've experienced so far," Kam said. "We're heading to the Asian Winter Games next week, but I think we can perform there better. I think this event made us work harder and improve things that we're not good at."
Kim said she felt nerves before performing on the ice because of a big home crowd. She lamented that her right knee injury prevented her from having better jumps.
"We learned about the atmosphere of a big event and it was a good experience for us," she said. "After skating at the Olympic venue, I also felt we should work hard in order to perform here next year. It was very nice to skate here."
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