Kazakh-Korean figure skater dreams of Olympics at home

July 29, 2015
Denis Ten, from Kazakhstan, Sochi 2014 Bronze medalist in the men's singles figure skating, speaks at a news conference during the 2022 Winter Olympics Candidate City Briefing for IOC Members at the Olympic Museum, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 9, 2015. With the vote less than two months away, leaders of the Almaty and Beijing bids made presentations at a "technical briefing" at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. The meeting was attended by 85 of the International Olympic Committee's 101 members. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

Denis Ten, from Kazakhstan, Sochi 2014 Bronze medalist in the men’s singles figure skating, speaks at a news conference during the 2022 Winter Olympics Candidate City Briefing for IOC Members at the Olympic Museum, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 9, 2015. With the vote less than two months away, leaders of the Almaty and Beijing bids made presentations at a “technical briefing” at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. The meeting was attended by 85 of the International Olympic Committee’s 101 members. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

KUALA LUMPUR, July 29 (Yonhap) — Denis Ten has been the most accomplished figure skater to come out of Kazakhstan, having bagged an Olympic bronze and a world championships silver. Now the 22-year-old is trying to duplicate such success off the ice, as Almaty tries to win the right to host the 2022 Winter Games.

As an athlete ambassador for the bidding committee for the largest city in Kazakhstan, which is battling Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, Ten on Wednesday gushed about the progress Almaty has made.

“Our idea and concept are very real; we’re not trying to change the city for the Olympics,” Ten said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, where the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will choose between the two candidates Friday. “We just want to be ourselves, and we have nothing to hide. If the dream happens, the whole world will be able to witness the beauty and convenience and idea of the Olympic Games (in Almaty).”

Though Beijing, the 2008 Summer Olympics host with deep pockets, has been seen as the favorite, Almaty appears to have narrowed the gap, thanks to a bid centered on natural snow and a compact layout of its venues.

Ten, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and the first Kazakh to win an Olympic medal in figure skating, has developed a significant following in South Korea thanks to his local connection. He is a great-great-grandson of a Korean-born independence fighter, Min Keung-ho. Ten became even more popular among figure skating enthusiasts in South Korea in February when he captured the title at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Seoul and blew away the field with 289.46 points, the third-highest mark ever by a male skater.

He will be 28 by the 2022 Winter Games — an advanced age in a sport frequently dominated by younger athletes — and remained non-committal about competing in what would be his fourth Olympics.

Ten said he’s currently focusing on the next Winter Games in 2018, to be held in South Korea’s PyeongChang — so much so that he got up at 5 a.m. Wednesday to train at a rink inside a Kuala Lumpur mall.

“Emotionally, I really want to be in Almaty (as an athlete), but we’ll see,” he said. “I will try to help the athletes from my country to do well, no matter where I will be. My heart will always be with the Olympic Games no matter where it is in 2022.”

Ten added it was “mind-blowing” just to think he could have a chance to skate in South Korea, which he calls “my second home,” and then in his native Kazakhstan in back-to-back Olympics.

“Seventeen years ago, I took my first step on the ice, and I didn’t have conditions and right opportunities to practice sports professionally,” he said. “It’s a huge honor for me just to be here because I’ve never thought we’d have this opportunity.”

Ten said he has spoken to fellow athletes about Almaty’s bid, and they’ve been “deeply impressed” by the city’s ability to host big events.

“Athletes want to feel comfortable during the Olympics. They don’t want to get distracted,” he added. “We take all the worries from the athletes so that they can focus on their sports. Our plan is very convenient, and our resources are natural.”

Ten also said hosting the Olympics will be an important “first step” for his young, progressing country.

“The Olympic Games will be the key to our future developments,” he said. “The Olympics will be an example of what our country can achieve if we have the right resources and right facilities. Lao Tzu (ancient Chinese philosopher) once said, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ This (bid) will mark our first step toward the Olympic dreams.”

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