INSPIRED SKATERS. Keita Horiko, the 10-year-old U.S. Figure
Skating juvenile boys champion, practices during his second
workout of the day at the Ice House in Hackensack, New Jersey.
With Asian Americans making up half of the U.S. Figure Skating
team at the PyeongChang Olympics, talented youngsters such as
Horiko can hope to realize dreams of one day being on the ice at
the international level as they have plenty of role models to
emulate. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
From The Asian Reporter, V28, #4 (February 19, 2018),
Pride for Asian-American skaters as they skate
in the Olympics
By Deepti Hajela
The Associated Press
HACKENSACK, N.J. ó Keita Horiko glided across the rink at the
Ice House, picking up speed as he attempted a jump ó and
sprawled in a fall as he came back down.
Unfazed, the 10-year-old U.S. Figure Skating juvenile boys
champion got up and started skating again. His older brother,
13-year-old Yuki, also was on the ice, practicing his own moves
as they wound down their second practice of the day before
heading home to Manhattan and doing it all again the next day.
Theyíve got Olympic-size dreams, and when they watch figure
skating at the PyeongChang Games, theyíve got plenty of role
models ó a history-making U.S. Figure Skating team in which half
of the 14 members are Asian American.
"Itís very inspiring and it makes you think, I want to be
like them," Keita said.
While there have been Asian-American figure skaters
representing the United States at past Olympics ó the most
high-profile being gold medallist Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992 and
silver and bronze medallist Michelle Kwan in 1998 and 2002 ó
there never has been anything like this.
For the women, thereís 24-year-old Mirai Nagasu and
18-year-old Karen Chen; on the menís side, 18-year-old Nathan
Chen and 17-year-old Vincent Zhou; among the ice dancers,
sibling pair Alex Shibutani, 26, and Maia Shibutani, 23, and
Madison Chock, 25.
Itís a heady moment, especially because Asian Americans as a
minority group have long faced stereotypes of being more about
books and brains than anything else.
"I think itís supercool and exciting," said Mai Hoang
Parmentier, 35, of Yakima, Washington, who got into watching
skating when she saw Yamaguchi compete.
"For me, growing up you had the stereotype of oh, Asians are
good at math or academia or art or music," she said. "I just
like the idea that my daughter can see that she doesnít have to
be pigeonholed, that she can actually be good at sports."
Ryan Morris, 28, of Berkeley, California, agreed. The skating
fan planned on making sure his young nieces and nephew watched
it with him.
"Theyíre going to see in the most important sport in the
Winter Olympics ... people who look like them," he said. "Itís a
Olympian Scott Hamilton said Yamaguchiís and Kwanís not only
skating on a world stage but winning was likely an impetus for a
younger generation of Asian Americans, and their parents, even
to consider it.
"A lot of it is seeing a sport and seeing others be
successful and saying, I want to do that, and thatís what you
need," he said. "Winning really creates interest."
Thereís already been some success ó skating in the team
event, Nagasu became the first American woman to complete a
triple axel in the Olympics. That led to some controversy when
Bari Weiss, an op-ed writer for The New York Times,
tweeted about the feat with the words, "Immigrants: They get the
job done." Nagasu was born in California, and the since-deleted
tweet was criticized by some who said it touched on
Asian-American concerns about continually being assumed to be
Even that has echoes in previous Olympics, as in 1998, when a
headline after American Tara Lipinski won the gold medal read,
"American beats out Kwan." Kwan was born and raised in
In this yearís games, much of the hoopla around possibly
winning has focused on Nathan Chen in particular.
The Salt Lake City, Utah, native, who predicted as a
10-year-old novice champion that he would be at the 2018
Olympics, has been showcased as an athlete to watch at these
games because of his athleticism and multiple quadruple jumps.
He is considered a frontrunner in the individual menís event,
even though he got off to a rough start by finishing fourth in
the menís short program for the team skating event after an
uncharacteristic fall during a triple axel.
That Asian Americans are being represented on the menís side
as well as the womenís is important, said Phil Yu, who writes
about pop culture and other subjects on his Angry Asian Man
Chenís overall presence and success "is a powerful statement
for Asian-American men who have generally had this stereotype
hang over them of being not athletic, not expressive," he said.
"To have someone like Nathan Chen excel, not only excel, but
blow all these other people out of the water, itís a powerful
thing," Yu said.
It certainly is for Yuki Horiko. Seeing someone Asian
American like him go after Olympic gold "gives me more
confidence" for his own hopes, the 13-year-old said.
"If he can do it, maybe I can do it."
Deepti Hajela covers issues of race, ethnicity, and
immigration for The Associated Press.