Meet Shin Lei Case: Ice Dancer, Official and Future Doctor

At only 21 years old, Shin Lei Case has already built an impressive resume as an ice dancer and official. But now, she looks towards her next endeavor: medical school. 

Above: Case recently competed at the 2024 Washington Picken Solo Ice Dance International, the first official ISU international solo dance event held in the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Melanie Heaney Photography)

By Jillian L. Martinez

At only 21, Shin Lei Case has already crafted an extensive resume on and off the ice. The 2023 Dallas Figure Skating Club “Member of the Year,” is not only an accomplished ice dancer, but she is also an official and is hoping to become a doctor.

Shin Lei poses holding an American flag wearing a dark red skating costume
Case placed fifth in two events at the 2024 Washington Picken Solo Ice Dance International

Born in Foshan, China, Case was adopted by her parents and raised in the Dallas Fort Worth metropolitan area. By 3 years old, Case was on the ice.  

“I was invited to a birthday party at our local mall, which had a local ice rink,” Case shared. “I was so excited because I thought the party was going to be at the rink.”

Much to Case’s dismay, the party did not take place at the rink that day, but that didn’t stop her determination to skate.  

“I had to wait until after the birthday party and beg my mom to take me to the rink and put me on the ice,” said Case. “[The rink] gave me the smallest pair of skates, and I went out on the ice. That’s how I got started.”

For the first part of her skating career, Case trained and competed as a single freestyle skater. When she was 12 years old, she transitioned to ice dance, competing with dance partner, Maxim Zharkov. The pair qualified for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships after two years together and went on to win the juvenile ice dance pewter medal at the 2016 U.S. Championships. After ending her partnership with Zharkov, Case was encouraged by her coach to compete in solo dance as a means to maintain skills while searching for a new partner.

“After my first year in solo dance, I really gravitated towards it. I enjoyed every aspect of it, and I was hooked, so I stopped looking for a partner.”

As a solo dancer, Case has competed both nationally and internationally. Last September, Case traveled to Chicago to participate in the 2023 National Solo Dance Final. At the competition, Case secured two bronze medals: one in the senior combined event and one in the international solo pattern dance event. Last month, Case competed at the first ever ISU-approved international solo ice dance competition in North America, the Washington Picken International competition. Case competed in the senior combined rhythm dance and senior combined free dance, placing fifth in both events.

“Solo dance moved to IJS (International Judging System) in 2018, and more people have been seeing [it] as another discipline. I think it has been growing exponentially, and I am excited more people are talking about it and more people are seeing it as an option in the sport.”

Shin Lei sits at a judges table and smiles at the camera. She is a young Asian woman with black hair tied back in a ponytail. She is wearing a black winter coat
Case served as a referee at 2023 Skate Dallas in Allen, Texas. 

When Case isn’t training for solo dance, she is actively involved with the DFSC and is also working on her judging appointments. 

“My mentor Carol Wooley had been trying to convince me to start judging since I turned 16, and I always declined it,” said Case. “When the pandemic hit in 2020 and there was nothing to do, I started trial judging at my club.”

Now, Case is a gold level test judge in both singles and ice dance and has a goal of earning her sectional competition judge appointment.

“I’m a very technical person, and that’s one of the things I like about dance,” described Case, who serves as the assistant test chair for DFSC. “[With judging] I like being able to see the behind the scenes of what goes into scoring. [As a skater], looking at the GEO can be kind of overwhelming. But as a judge you can see how the points are specifically awarded.”

Beyond being an accomplished ice dancer and up-and-coming official, Case is dedicated to the medical field and hopes to become an orthopedic and sports medicine doctor one day. In 2021, Case was a recipient of the 2021 Scott Hamilton Skaters Education Fund scholarship, which provides funding to figure skaters who display competitive success and academic commitment. Case graduated with a degree in biology last year and has been studying for the MCAT since then while working as a medical assistant and scribe.

Case attributes her personal experiences as a skater as her inspiration for pursuing a career in sports medicine.    

Because of a few skating accidents resulting in hospital visits, Case became inspired to pursue a career in the medical field. But as a medical assistant and scribe, she quickly learned there is a lack of females in the orthopedic medical field. According to Becker’s Orthopedic & Spine Review, approximately 10% of women make up the orthopedic workforce, which is the lowest representation of women in any medical specialty.

“I currently scribe for an orthopedic hand surgeon, and I think it would be really cool to [come back one day] and be the first Asian female orthopedic surgeon at this clinic.”

Shin Lei Case poses with a colleague with them both giving a thumbs up to the camera. They are both young Asian women wearing blue surgical gowns and white face masks
Case frequently volunteers at the Open Arms Health Clinic, a health clinic that provides free medical care to individuals who are underinsured and uninsured. 

As a young Asian-American growing up in Texas, Case has grown up far away from where she was born. Case credits her parents for helping her embrace her Chinese culture and encouraging her to embrace it.

“When I was younger, my mom tried to enroll me in a Cantonese learning school, and I attended two or three classes,” Case said.

In 2020, Case was supposed to visit Guangdong Province post-graduation, but the trip was canceled due to the pandemic. Another attempt to visit was made in 2023, but travel into China was still limited.

“I think someday in the future I would like to visit and see where I grew up. I want to see the architecture – especially the Great Wall – and I would love to hold a panda.”

For now, Case feels lucky to live in a place with a large Asian-American community that provides opportunities for her to connect with her culture. Together, the Case family celebrates Chinese New Year every year, makes frequent trips to Asia Times Square – which is one of the largest Asian markets in Texas –and eats dim sum together.

“The representation and visibility of the AAPI community is so important because it really paves the way for younger generations,” Case explained. “Not only is it important for skaters to see people who look like them on the ice, it is also important for them to see themselves represented on a judging panel.”

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