The figure skating ice dance duo of Lim Hae-na (19) and Quan Ye (22) are world-class. Their second-place finish at the 2023 ISU World Junior Championships in Winsport, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in March made them the first Korean and Asian duo to medal in the event. While they have the talent to win Olympic medals, their nationality is a barrier to Olympic participation. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires athletes and teams to be of the same nationality. Lim was born in Canada and has been competing as a South Korean since last season. On the other hand, Icelandic-born Quan Ye is a Chinese-Canadian athlete.
Her decision to take on the Korean nationality will pave the way for her to compete in the Olympics. “I submitted the (special naturalization) documents to the Ministry of Justice on the 1st of this month,” she said after the 2024-2025 National Team Primary Selection and 2023 KB Financial National Men’s and Women’s Figure Skating Presidential Ranking Competition held at the Uijeongbu Indoor Ice Center on Wednesday. “If the special naturalization is approved, I will do my best to perform at the Harbin Asian Games and the Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Olympics with the Korean flag,” she said.
Her naturalization was pushed for by the Korean Ice Federation, and the Korean Sports Federation recently selected her for special naturalization through its Performance Enhancement Committee. The Ministry of Justice plans to hold a nationality review committee to discuss her case after the review. In preparation for the interview, which will be required, she is studying at a university in Montreal, Canada. “I’m working hard to learn not only Korean language but also Korean culture,” she said, adding that she hopes to compete on the international stage as a Korean athlete with Lim Hae-na.
There are many examples of South Korean athletes competing in the Olympics through special naturalization. At the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Alexander Gemerlin, 30, was granted South Korean citizenship and impressed with his figure performance in a free dance with Min Yura, 28, wearing a modified hanbok.
Meanwhile, Cha Jun-hwan (22, Korea University) battled through an ankle injury to take first place in the men’s single freeskating at the event with a total score of 174.25 points, including 87.00 points for the technical elements (TES) and 87.05 points for the artistic elements (PCS). Cha added an 86.28 in the short program for a final total of 260.53 points, beating out Shin Min-gyu (Kyung Shin-jung – 240.05) and Lee Jae-geun (Surigyo – 238.50). With his podium finish, Cha boosted his chances of being selected for the national team next season. “I put together a program with the performances I could do and received satisfactory results,” said Cha after his painkiller performance.