Yebin Mok, who was born in Seoul, Korea, and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was seven, didn’t intend to be a figure skater. “My best friend was a baton twirler and I wanted to go to baton class, but my Dad said, ‘it’s either baton twirling or skating.’ I wanted to do skating so skating it was.” Once I started, it was so much fun that I was hooked. I love pure gliding. I feel so free when I’m on the ice.” Mok has even tried ice dancing. “I loved it,” she said. “I want to try dance again once I’ve finished singles skating.”
She was ten when she started, later than many girls in the U.S., but once Mok began, she progressed quickly. The talented 20-year-old landed her first triple salchow when she was 14. The triple lutz is her favorite jump. “My goal is to get back healthy and practice triple lutz-triple toeloops in the short and the long,” she noted. Mok has also been working on a triple toe-triple toe. “I was hoping to start working on a triple Axel this summer,” she added. “I think it’s more challenging than a quad. It’s a harder jump. I’m bored by the quad.” Among her other favorite elements are spread-eagles, Ina Bauers and laybacks.
Mok trains in El Segundo, California, for about four hours a day on ice and an hour off ice. “I go to the gym and do cardio,” she said. And I work with weights a little.” She also does ballet, Pilates and yoga. Her main coach is Frank Carroll, although she also gets help from Johnnie Bevan, who recently retired from eligible competition himself. “I think Yebin has a lot of potential,” Bevan stated. “She’s finally starting to believe in herself and become a much stronger skater mentally. She always had the physical skills, now she’s got the mental toughness.” “Now I like how the competitions make me feel, all jittery and nervous,” Mok said. “I love to compete.”
“Since 1999, I haven’t had a really great season,” Mok said. “I’ve only been so-so and I’ve been disappointed every year. It was hard to learn the triples when I was growing. I had a pinched nerve in my back and a bursa on my Achilles tendon. That’s what happened at the 2001 Junior Worlds. It came from a growth spurt and pounding the jumps in practice. Then I settled down in my training and got myself ready to perform. Before, it was more of a gamble.”
Her best results were in the 2002-2003 season when she won a silver at the Golden Spin in Zagreb, a bronze at the Junior Grand Prix in Beijing, and placed fourth at the JGP in Montreal. She finished sixth in seniors at U.S. Nationals and fifth at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships. “It was like I was reborn,” Mok stated, “like that bird from the fire, the Phoenix.”
But then more medical problems arose. Last July, Mok was diagnosed with a stress fracture in one of her lumbar vertebrae and had to take off three months while the injury healed. That set her training back so far that she missed all of her Grand Prix assignments and had to withdraw from the 2004 U.S. Nationals. Then in May, she had surgery on her ankle due to a cyst that was caused by rubbing and compression of her boots, which sidelined her for another six weeks. “I have to say it’s a bummer that I haven’t been able to train hard like I used to,” Mok said.
Mok’s first competition since the surgery and injuries was this week at the 2005 Southwest Pacific Regional Championships where she placed second overall. “The biggest step was to make the decision to do the competition,” said Mok, adding that she made that decision just days before the event. “I was more relieved and I knew I had to do. I felt like I was control.”
In her short program, Mok fell on her triple toeloop-double toeloop combination and stepped out of the landing double Axel but landed the triple Salchow. “I did the best that I could do. I was just happy to be out on the ice and competing again after being away for so long! I was doing singles and basic skating in June. While everything is coming along, it’s coming slowly, which makes it frustrating sometimes.”
In her long, Mok fell on a triple toeloop, but landed a double Lutz, a triple toeloop-double toeloop combination, a triple Salchow, and a double Axel. “One of my goals is to get back the triple Lutz,” said Mok, who plans to compete at the upcoming 2005 Pacific Coast Sectionals. “Hopefully I will do well. Only the top four will qualify for nationals.”
Mok just started working on her programs a month ago. This season, she is using a harp concerto by Gliere and Carl Davis’ The Wind for her long program which was choreographed by Henrik Walenin. “This is the first time I’ve worked with him,” she said, adding that she enjoys working with him. “I really like the music.” For the short, Mok is using The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns which was choreographed by Irina Yelchin. Off ice, she said, “I like 1940s music like Frank Sinatra and Billie Holliday. Usually in the mornings, I listen to classical music, and then in the evening I listen to pop and rock. I like a lot of variety.”
To relax, Mok said, “I love watching movies, both at home and at the theater. My Dad says I watch too many movies. Romantic comedies are my favorite. I can’t handle scary movies at all. I love reading about autobiographies. Tuesdays with Morrie is one of my favorite books. While having the free time resting I read two of Lance Armstrong’s books and after reading them I have great admiration for him. I never realized how grueling Tour de France was. I was blown away by all the hardships he had to overcome to get to where he is now. He’s definitely one of a kind.”
She also collects dolls with traditional costumes from each country she visits. “I don’t have any favorite places that I’ve visited so far,” she said. “I never go to the fun places. Sometimes my parents and I go on road trips in the summer, but no real vacations. I’d love to go to Paris and New York City and some nice islands like Tahiti.”
Mok, who currently takes classes at a city college, would like to major in Communications with a minor in French and is also interested in Business and Entrepreneurship. “I also like writing and I write in my journal constantly,” she noted. “For a while, I wanted to be a pastry chef. I’m always watching the Food Channel because I like cooking and baking. But I also want to work with children. And sometimes I want to be a fashion designer. I design my costumes with my mom and she sews them. I like to make clothes myself, just tank tops and stuff.”
Mok’s older sister created an official website for Yebin at www.yebinmok.com. The site includes a journal that is updated. Mok uses her computer these days to listen to music, watch movie trailers, and surfing. “One of my favorite movies is Garden State,” said Mok, adding that her favorite actor is Zach Braff.
She has modest goals for the 2004-2005 season. “I’m just trying to take one step at a time in each situation,” she said. “Most important is to be healthy and well so that I can consistently train. Another important thing is to allow myself to make some mistakes. Trying to be a perfectionist is just too huge a burden to carry.”