How Kim Yu-Na’s Foot Injury Is Changing Her Skating—And Keeping Her on Top

Injured Kim Yu-Na goes for artistry instead of big jumpsHave you heard of Kim Yu-Na yet? If you haven’t today, you probably will have by tonight! In the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Kim became the first South Korean to win an Olympic gold medal in women’s figure skating. In this year’s Sochi games, she is attempting to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic golds.

Back in September 2013, that dream seemed in danger—Kim was experiencing terrible foot pain, and it turned out that she had a metatarsal injury in her right foot. To allow herself to heal, she had to stop training for six whole weeks, a huge amount of time leading up to the biggest competition of her life.

Going in to Wednesday night’s short program, Kim was not confident about her chances, even telling the press that she had peaked in the sport four years ago. So how come she won the short program and is a strong contender for gold heading into this evening’s long program?

The answer is: she changed things up! Kim learned the secret of coming back properly from a sports injury: you can’t do things the way you did before you got hurt. On Wednesday night, Kim Yu-Na shunned the difficult jump combinations performed by her competitors, focusing instead on artistic foot work and amazing choreography. In doing so, she blew her competition out of the water and went easy on her injured foot at the same time!

Obviously, Kim’s a role model for ice skaters, but the lesson can be applied to other athletes as well, be it basketball players, hockey nuts or runners and tri-athletes. If you’ve been forced to stop training for the sport you love because of an injury, your instinct may be to jump right back to where you were just before you got hurt. But you must remember, even though you haven’t lost mental momentum, your body isn’t ready to go from zero-to-sixty—if you try to do too much, too soon, you’ll likely just get hurt again.

Why not take a page from an Olympic gold medalist’s book? When returning from an athletic injury, ease into training, don’t try your hardest routines right off the bat and keep in touch with your Houston podiatrist to make sure that any increase in training difficulty is safe for you to resume. 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.