By B. J. Coleman
Brian Kim, M.D., is a Scripps Coastal family physician with an extraordinary talent far outside his medical training and skills. Kim is a championship amateur figure skater who had a banner year during 2018, crowned the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Champion in the adult gold men’s category, and then finishing strong with a gold medal at the Gay Games held in Paris during August. In earlier national competitions, he was awarded silver and bronze medals.
Kim competed at the adult gold level of skating, for those in the 30-40 age range. Taking a mid-practice timeout from training at the San Diego Ice Arena in late November, Kim described the circuitous path that brought him to being a highly skilled figure skater.
“I always wanted to do this,” Kim said. He was captivated by figure skating in his 1980s childhood years in Santa Clarita. But there were no ice rinks nearby. Kim spoke further about resisting his interest because figure skating had a “gay association” to it.
After Kim took his medical school admissions test, he realized he was burned out and needed a break. Instead of applying to attend medical school immediately, Kim spent a year taking skating classes. He elaborated, saying that he was depressed from being closeted, overweight at 220 pounds, and unable to lose weight with common forms of exercise.
“I thought I was obese for life,” Kim said. Figure skating changed that.
And then, he came out of that closet that had held him in so long.
“That was very freeing,” Kim said. “And when I started skating, the weight started coming off.” Kim now weighs 165 pounds. He manages that with the skating as exercise and a sensible diet. “And I try not to enjoy too many cocktails on the weekend,” he continued, laughing.
This success with healthy living provides advice Kim shares with his patients. He splits his physician practice between family medicine and HIV medicine. Kim estimated that about 40 percent of his work is in the HIV practice. The demand is high for experienced HIV doctors because of a shortage, Kim noted, adding that current treatments better manage HIV, with patients tolerating the treatments well these days, unlike prior responses to treat HIV infection and AIDS. “But the prevalence is going up,” he said.
“The No. 1 consideration for healthy living is to like the activity for exercise. Find something you like,” Kim said. “People should think outside the box to find an activity they enjoy.” Kim suggested that running, walking and gym sessions may not keep adults engaged and active for long. He mentioned not only ice skating as an adult sport, but also ballet, or circus school to learn walking the tightrope or flying the trapeze. “I don’t regret starting late,” Kim said.
The attraction to figure skating for Kim is more than the exercise, artistic expression, choreography, and competitive accomplishment, though.
“Skating is very technical,” Kim said. “You achieve small rewards from every practice, and this is almost addicting. This is a gift to my own life.”
Kim acquired a new coach in September, Dr. Chea Hutton-Chitwood.
“[Kim] is really good. He doesn’t know how good he is,” she said.
A championship medalist in figure skating herself, Hutton-Chitwood holds a doctorate in sport psychology, and she specializes in technical training and psychological aspects of ice skating.
“Brian is just a gem,” Hutton-Chitwood said. “He is a pleasure to work with. He gives 110 percent every lesson. He’s a great guy everyone should know.”
Hutton-Chitwood continued, describing the allure of ice skating.
“People see the sport on TV, and they appreciate the beauty of it,” she said, stating further that the sport is both aesthetic and dramatic. She and Kim discussed the intriguing personal interest stories behind ice-skating athletes, including comebacks from injury as well as long-standing rivalries.
The coach-athlete team is gearing up Kim’s training for the 2019 season. Kim was breaking in new skate boots in late November.
“This affects confidence,” Kim said, “and this [breaking in new skate boots] affects technique, but that is coming back. This is a very psychological sport.” He is working on new jumps and new choreography.
Kim has a warm, supportive home life. He has been engaged to his partner, Gary Rice, for two years.
ary’s endless support, I could never manage to do competitive skating alongside my career,” Kim said. They have two whippets. “I kind of consider the dogs my kids.”
And Kim plans to move up from adult gold to master’s level competition.
“This will be harder and more competitive,” he said. “I want to prove to myself that this is the right level for me.” Sectionals competition will be in March. Kim explained that around 500 skaters, up to 80 years of age, compete.
—B. J. Coleman is a local freelance journalist and editor/staff reporter with 22nd District Legionnaire. B. J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.