our princess on ice
Major Business Administration
Hometown Mission Viejo, CA
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She’s a national competitive figure skater representing the United States of America, she’s 18 years old and in the future she plans on graduating with honors at our school, what more can you ask for? Karen Zhou has dedicated her life to her passion and has excelled beyond belief. She has already achieved one of her lifetime goals of competing in the US Figure Skating Championships and now she’s on pursuit to join the ranks of the best skaters, perfecting the sport as much as she could and letting her heart show through each and every performance. Karen knows that “my love of the sport was a gift” and she strives everyday to embrace all that she has been given. Her family is no doubt a huge factor in Karen’s life. Even on the day we met up with Karen which just so happened to be Mother’s Day, her mother was standing right besides her supporting in every way possible. This dedication not only from Karen but her family has made her the determined woman of today ready to take on the world. Her commitment to improving herself definitely carries over towards her academics and she plans to fuse both of her passions of athletics and business to build a stronger community.
ED: What is your motivation?
KZ: I know it is very cliche to say that my family is my motivation. But it’s definitely very true. When I was little, my parents put my sister and I in a ton of different activities, including figure skating, dance (ballet, tap, jazz, etc), piano, gymnastics, and swimming. While my sister chose a different path than me, my parents supported both of us in every way imaginable. She focused her energy on dance and piano, in addition to school, and I dedicated hours to figure skating and school. My mom was, and still is, my main supporter when I devote hours to training on the ice. She accompanies me to every practice and competition, and lends a helping hand when I need it. My dad is more on the academic side and pushes and encourages me to persevere in school. Finally, my sister, a former anteater herself, who is now getting a Ph.D. at Harvard University, is my constant support system for whatever I need. Any problems I may have, I know she is always there for me, as am I. I look at how much she has accomplished in school and dancing and I make myself work even harder. Whenever I have a bad day, I just remember all the sacrifices my family has made for me to pursue both a skating career and a college degree, and I am able to keep going. I feel so fortunate that I can share all of my good experiences with my family, as well.
ED: What have you accomplished?
KZ: In figure skating, I have accomplished some of my first few goals: I have competed at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and, with those results, have made it onto Team USA, where I can represent the United States in various international competitions around the world. I am so grateful for the opportunity to hear my name called over the loudspeaker, followed by the phrase “representing the United States of America”. It makes me so proud and I love meeting new friends from around the globe and immersing myself in foreign cultures. I have learned so much from it and I can’t wait to learn and experience even more. Academic-wise, I am thrilled to be a part of the new undergraduate Business Administration program at the Paul Merage School of Business here at UCI. It is such a close-knit community, and the faculty members really want each and every one of their Business Administration students to succeed. I’ve had so much fun getting to know the other students – they all work so hard and support me with both my school and figure skating. I feel so lucky to have such an amazing support system at school! This Business undergraduate program is a very competitive and prestigious one and I am honored to be part of it.
ED: What is your passion?
KZ: My main passion is feeling the competitive fire that always exists within me. And I can feel that spirit, whether I am at school or at the rink. At UCI, I strive to get straight As and live up to my sister’s perfect reputation. I don’t necessarily want to follow in her exact footsteps since I do want to lead a new path of my own, but watching her succeed in school has definitely awakened that fire within me to graduate with honors as well. During practice sessions, there is always someone pushing me – either a fellow skater or myself. I always want to do more: jump higher, spin faster, be better. And, during competitions, obviously, the competitive spirit is alive and well. I love to embrace it and it makes competing so much fun. I look forward to any opportunity to represent myself and my country every year. Figure skating has proved, over the years, to make me a better person and has allowed me to grow, physically and mentally. The sport has taught me, first and foremost, that perseverance and passion leads to success. Strength and confidence has replaced nerves, and allows me to perform my best, even under pressure. My will power and self-motivation have enabled me to devote numerous hours every day to my sport, with no complaints. Figure skating allows me to control myself and be responsible for all my actions. One small error or lapse of judgment can change the outcome. I recognize that goals can be met with hard work. Every country I compete in gives me a new sense of pride and encourages me to continue to push myself to improve.
ED: What have you done for the Asian/Pacific Islander American community?
KZ: Whenever I step onto the ice or walk into the classroom, I never try to hide from my culture or my heritage. I embrace my Chinese descent and I hope, through my figure skating and academic success, I paint Asian Americans in a good light. I hope to make them proud. Asians have just as many opportunities to be great as anybody else and have such a strong community sense within it.
ED: What do you hope to accomplish?
KZ: First and foremost, I hope to graduate UCI with honors. I also hope to pursue an MBA degree in the future. On the ice, however, I want to compete in more and more countries and, hopefully, make my country proud. I just want to perform on the ice and let my heart show through my skating. I hope to perfect the art of figure skating as much as I can. Finally, when all that is done, I hope to link figure skating with a business background. I seek to promote skating, as well as sports in general, to everyone in the world and use it as a link between all countries. Obesity is rising and the only way to get more people to lead a healthy life is to get everyone involved in leading a more active lifestyle. With my figure skating expertise, I have had the wonderful opportunity to feel powerful emotions, including a competitive drive, which cannot be properly explained through words – it must be personally felt. I hope that everyone in the world can feel the same thing I do when I see the fresh, sparkling sheet of ice in front of me, embracing me in with open arms. Whatever sport it may be, there is a feeling that everybody must experience at least once. I can’t explain it right, but that is what I want to promote – what I want to give back to the world.
Karen started ice skating when she was 5. Her favorite part about skating is the exhilaration of speed on the ice. She enjoys the triple Lutz. Every week she practices for 25 hours which includes skating, stretching and working out. Her inspirations include such ice skaters as Michelle Kwon, Sasha Cohen and Jeffrey Buttle.