It was the figure skating world championships in 2016 in Boston, and an 11-year-old Audrey Shin couldn’t pick her jaw up off the floor.
“I remember watching from the very first group and just wanting to go out and compete there as well,” the American, now 16, told Olympic Channel. “I remember wishing that I could someday compete at worlds. And I remember watching Evgenia Medvedeva for the first time in person. I was so shocked. My jaw dropped to the floor. She was so good.”
Medvedeva would win those world championships and go on to claim silver at PyeongChang 2018 two years later.
As for Shin, the New York native made her own splash on the international senior scene this season, claiming bronze at Skate America behind accomplished (and older) U.S. teammates Mariah Bell and Bradie Tennell.
The 2019 U.S. silver medallist in juniors, Shin says her confidence has been on the upswing since ankle surgery took her out of training for two months in the summer of 2019, when she had a cyst removed.
Having moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to work with Tammy Gambill in 2018, Shin was selected to go to the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne earlier this year, where she finished 7th. It was competition that she said changed her life – and started a fire in her belly to make Beijing 2022, the next Winter Games.
“The Youth Olympics Games was by far my favourite competition,” said Shin. “From the start, it really felt like I was in a dream. There were athletes there from different countries from around the world. It was so cool to connect with everyone and learn about their sports.”
“And I got really into pin-trading.”
Shin hopes to get into pin-trading come Beijing, and her bronze medal at Skate America was the first indication that could be a valid possibility. She’ll make her debut at the senior level of the U.S. national championships in January, where she’ll try and qualify for the worlds spot she dreamed of at 11.
Here, five things you didn’t know about the American teenager.
Teenage dreams: BTS, video chats and hiking
While she puts in plenty of hours of hard work training in Colorado, Shin likes to explore the great outdoors, too – and luckily the Rocky Mountains are right in her backyard.
“I love to go hiking... there are so many beautiful mountains here,” she said. “I usually go with my family, my sister and my parents.”
The whole family moved to Colorado, and since Shin made a pit-stop in California to train with Rafael Arutunian before landing there, she spends a lot of time connecting with friends all over the country, via text messages or video chat.
It’s there that they chat about their favourite music – right now K-pop bands BTS and Blackpink as well as Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish and more. Shin is also into colouring to de-stress, opening a good book to read, or doing pilates for her off-ice training.
Family pride: Korean heritage
Both Shin’s parents are Korean, and met in New York. While she was born and grew up in Long Island, she spent part of her childhood in “the big city,” Manhattan, where her father worked.
Her Korean heritage is important to her: She speaks fluent Korean and celebrates Korean New Year each year with a traditional Korean rice cake soup.
“It’s supposed to give you good health for the year,” she said of the meal. “We used to go to my grandma’s house each year for it. ... I feel super lucky to speak another language. I have a lot of Korean friends, and some Korean skaters come to Colorado to train so I can talk with them.”
A dream is to one day go to South Korea, a place she’s never visited.
“I’ve never actually been and I’m kind of upset about that. I love Korean food. I dream about going there one day... maybe to skate.”
Eye on 2022: Beijing dreamin’
Shin has skated since she was six and has always dreamed about the Olympics, but two things have sharpened that focus in 2020: The Youth Olympic Games and her Skate America experience.
“Making Beijing 2022 is a dream of mine... it has been since I was six,” she said, smiling. “I would be so excited to be able to make the Olympic team.”
Shin is training both in-harness (for assistance) and without one on two big technical skills: The triple Axel and quadruple toe. She said both jumps are “getting closer.”
“The quad toe is a quarter-turn short,” she said. “We have to be careful with how many repetitions I’m doing each day so I don’t get hurt.”
While Shin didn’t attempt either jump at Skate America, she presented a more mature, musically in-touch brand of skating that fans hadn’t yet seen. Her free skate was called one of the programs of the weekend by fans and commentators alike. In it, she completed seven triple jumps, three of them in combination.
“Skate America was a big surprise... I was only supposed to skate juniors this season,” she said, though the Junior Grand Prix Series was cancelled in full due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Being able to be at a competition like that is always so exciting. That experience I will forever keep in my mind... being on the podium with those skaters; it’s going to help me a lot. In the future, it’s going to build my confidence.”
Figure skating fanatic
After Skate America, Shin stayed in Las Vegas for a taping of a team figure skating event in which she was on the same side of the boards as two-time world champion Nathan Chen. The team was captained by 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski.
It was another dream come true for Shin, who is an outright figure skating fanatic.
Having started the sport at six, she often made the long drive across New York City and into New Jersey to train. As a kid, she took selfies with the likes of Olympic champ Evan Lysacek, Olympic medallists Michelle Kwan, Maia and Alex Shibutani, Javier Fernandez and others.
At age 10 she got to skate at the famed Rockefeller Plaza in New York.
Pushing – and pushed by – her peers
While Shin has not had the early-career success as two-time U.S. national champion Alysa Liu, who is 15, she said she feels as though a new generation of American women are pushing one another, including herself, Liu, Ting Cui (bronze, junior worlds 2019), Hanna Harrell (4th at U.S. nationals 2019) and others.
“The younger generation, we see each other at competitions and at camps, we’re all super close,” she said. “Because of COVID we haven’t really been able to see each other at all.”
Will Shin be among those top names to watch as Beijing draws closer? She sure hopes so.