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Star Student: Aiming for the Olympics

Piedmont High senior Kevin Shum is training for the 2018 games.

Jay Adeff

Piedmont High School senior Kevin Shum found his sweet spot—and his skates—at a birthday party in Oakland. Kevin’s mother dropped six-year-old Kevin and his older brother off at the party at Oakland Ice Center. One decade and thousands of falls later, Kevin is the 2015 U.S. Junior Men’s Silver Medalist, and a member of Team USA.

He is also on the Piedmont Honor Society, a 2013 National Merit Scholar, a 2014 AP Scholar, and co-founder of his school's Technology Club. And when he’s not volunteering at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco or working as an assistant skating coach, Kevin is hiking near Lake Temescal or dabbling in photography.

Diablo met with Kevin over a post-practice hot chocolate at Oakland's Bittersweet Café to talk about his double axle jump, visiting Japan, and the 2018 winter Olympics.

Q: How did your skating career start?

A: My older brother and I took classes together through Oakland Ice Center’s Learn to Skate program. He was the first to do lessons. I’d skate up to the coach and peek around and see what they were doing. She saw I was interested and offered to teach me.

Q: What is one of your proudest moments as a skater?

A: The first time I landed my double axle--I was probably 11 years old. Some skaters get it in a week; it took me two-and-a-half years. I almost wanted to quit the sport because I couldn’t get that jump, no matter how hard I tried. Now it’s one of my more comfortable and easy jumps.Kevin with his 2015 U.S. Junior Men's silver medal | Jay Adeff

Q: What music do you like to skate to?

A: I usually spend an afternoon on my computer with my headphones in, browsing different albums. Not all music fits. It needs a slow section in the middle, to have the right tempo, and be suitable in a rink environment--which is a lot larger than a room--so the music needs to resonate. I listen to a bunch of tracks until something clicks. But for my warm up, I prefer silence. I like hearing the edges and the sound that my blades make on the ice.

Q: What has been one of the highlights of your career?

A: Going to my first international competition, and the first time the announcers said “representing the United States of America.” It was a new thing for me, representing something bigger than myself.

Q: Where is the best place you’ve traveled?

A: Japan is a really fun place to compete. The fans are great and they’re really supportive. I enjoy being in a different culture, immersing myself with different people, and getting to eat and try new things.

Q: Do you have any role models?

A: Brian Boitano [’84 Olympic champ], I think he’s from the Bay Area. He’s not only a great skater, but he’s also a good role model off the ice—friendly and outgoing. He helps the younger skaters and has supported me in the past.

Q: Do you see a future in skating?

A: I hope to continue as long as I can. I was injured in 2012 and off the ice for a year and half, so I know how risky the sport can be. The lifespan isn’t very long, but I’ll try to experience as much as I can for as long as I can. I don’t think I could ever leave the sport entirely. After I’m done competing, I think I’ll stick around the skating scene as a technical specialist, part-time coach, or something like that.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I want to go to college. I’m interested in computer science. If I have the chance to compete at the Olympics in 2018, that would be a really big achievement.

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Added: 2017-03-07

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