Great Neck’s Figure Skating Wunderkind

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Sue Zhang (left) and her coach, Crystal Kiang, are in front of a banner for the 2018 Lake Placid Figure Skating Championships, which features Zhang’s elegant starting pose.

Figure skating is probably one of the most difficult sports, as it involves endurance and strength, as well as dexterity, agility and balance, all while remaining poised. At just 10 years old, Great Neck resident Sue Zhang has already made it to the national level in her age group for ice skating.

Currently a sixth grader at Great Neck North Middle School, Zhang said that she first started skating when she was 4 years old and immediately fell in love with the freedom of gliding on the ice. She fondly recalls memories of her dad and her playing around on the ice. Formerly a recreational ice hockey player, Zhang’s dad would chase her across the ice. Zhang soon realized how much she loved skating. Even at a young age, she knew she wanted to take her skating career further.

Sue Zhang strikes a graceful pose.

Zhang already feels grateful for people who have helped her in pursuing her dream.

“I am grateful for my coach, Crystal, and my parents,” said Zhang. “Crystal made me a totally different skater, more competitive and more serious about my career. My dad and mom were always with me when I skated and always supported me. Also, the principal of Great Neck North Middle School, Mr. Cozine, is very supportive of my skating.”

But this spirited tween also realizes that there are many challenges to making it as a figure skater. Zhang demonstrates a level of maturity far beyond her age, understanding that figure skating involves the commitment of her entire family, from reliable transportation to funding for training and equipment. She discussed the biggest obstacle she has encountered so far.

Sue Zhang displays flexibility during a competition.

“Time to manage four to five hours of training while going to school is tough,” said Zhang. “I am trying my best to have straight As and even A pluses at school. It’s very challenging. The training for skating is also very expensive.”

As far as goals for her future as a figure skater, she said that her short-term goal is to do well in the national championships this month. If she achieves this, it will allow her to move onto a more advanced level of skating that includes every single triple jump. She explained that her progress would be “step-by-step” and gradual, and that she wants to integrate a triple axel into her skating program in the near future.

Sue Zhang was ranked No.1 during the qualifying round Group F at the 2018 North Atlantic Regional Championships on Oct. 5, 2017 at the Ice House in Hackensack, NJ.

Once she qualified from sectionals to regionals, she felt that her dream to go to nationals felt more reachable than ever. This energized and motivated her to practice long hours every day and pushed her to stay the course.

So far this year, Zhang has won the 2018 Eastern Sectional Championships Bronze medal on Nov. 15, which qualified her to go to USFS National Championships this month; was a Silver medalist in the 2018 North Atlantic Regional Championships on Oct. 6; a 2017 Empire State Winter Games Gold medalist in February; a 2017 Morris Open Bronze medalist in April; a 2017 Middle Atlantic Championships Silver medalist in September; and a 2017 Morran Open Silver medalist in August.

Sue Zhang (left) was in the final round for 2017 NA regionals, placed second and qualified to attend the 2018 Eastern Sectional Championships, where she came out third and qualified for the 2018 Prudential USFS Championships in San Jose, CA.

Zhang came in fifth when she competed in the 2018 national championships in San Jose, CA, on Dec. 29. Follow her on Instagram at @sue.zhang.skater.

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Brandon Lin is a columnist for Great Neck Record.

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