Finally, the Queen of Figure Skating has been declared; Kim Yu Na the South Korean superstar athlete.
Kim Yuna’s free skate score reached 150.06, an astonishing 13% higher than her previous world record of 133.95. This is truly a world record, and Kim Yuna won over Michelle Kwan who was her role model for figure skating. However, there is a feeling of sadness and happiness in the air.
Figure skating is hardly cheap nor easy. Figure skaters train daily for many years to perform in a competition that lasts less than 7 minutes for them on the ice. To figure skate, it also costs much money and many athletes in some countries cannot afford the money and this reality pushes them to quit their career and dreams immediately.
The same case applies to Kim Yu Na. Although she was a “brilliant genius” according to her first coach, her middle-class Korean family could not afford the money for Kim Yu Na’s training fee. She also couldn’t find a suitable training place so she went to the Lotte Playground Ice Rink to practice there while other kids skated.
Compared to her rivals in Korea’s rival country, Japan, Asada Mao and Miki Ando were sponsored earlier because figure skating is popular in that country, and while they practiced on the ice rink rented for individual, Kim Yu Na could not rent a place to practice.
The hardest obstacle that Kim Yu Na overcame was the financials. Since the Winter Olympics is the party for ‘white’ people’ the only competition that Koreans could get was the short track skating and the country/athletes put full effort on the short track to get a gold medal which explains the South Korean team’s surprising ability to outskate other athletes. Kim Yu Na could not get the attention of a sponsor before winning the Junior World’s Figure Skating. As part of their culture back then, Koreans did not care much about other winter sports.
Kim Yu Na was finally sponsored including by a small town chiroprotactic hospital who did not help her financially but still gave free treatment for her injuries.
Back in the 1950′s, the Korean police arrested two figure skaters practicing on a frozen river due to their appearence being too sexually vulgar in public. Most of the Korean people did not care about figure skating before Kim Yu Na arrived, even if there was a figure skating show on the television, they would say “Wow, they must practice really hard~ Let’s change the channel.”
As Kim Yu Na progressed, many South Koreans began to hope for her to win the country’s first gold medal for figure skating and so Kim Yu Na began to garner attention from the Korean media. After the Korean media looked into Kim Yu Na’s background, they were very shocked about Kim’s financial situation as a figure skating athlete. Kim Yu Na wasn’t able to change her skates at all and was forced to stick with skates that were worn out beyond their expiration date, thus her feet hurt frequently for that reason.
The Korean people started to help Kim Yu Na by requesting corporations to have Kim sponsored and appear on commercials. KB Kookmin Bank started become a financial sponsor of Kim Yu Na so she could concentrate on her skating only.
Kim Yu Na shows much potential as proven by the Vancouver Winter Olympics to both Koreans and the world. She started to become the ‘citizen’s fairy’ in South Korea and she began to gain at least 23 commercial contracts per year and get even more sponsors.
Myriam Loriol Oberwiler (Switzerland) became one of Kim Yu Na’s obstacles as well. Myriam described Kim Yu Na as an overrated athlete and judged Kim Yu Na unfairly. In the 2008 Grand Free Series ‘Cup Of China’, Myriam gave a “wrong edge” judgement on Kim Yu Na’s triple flip combination and gave a warning to Kim Yu Na to mark up her practice on her technique.
However, Myriam raised a white flag to Kim Yu Na in this year’s Winter Olympic as Kim Yu Na was very careful and smoothly skated as not to get lowered in score or receive any warning. In short, she was nothing short of perfect in terms of figure skating.
From her humble background to the Vancouver Winter Olympics, Kim Yu Na was not the only person who gained a gold medal. Her coach Brian Orser also achieved a gold medal for her and his goal.
Brian Orser was the Canadian figure skater. He is the 1984 and 1988 Olympic silver medalist, 1987 World champion and the 1981-1988 Canadian national champion, however he never had any connection with a gold medal or gold medalist. When Orser saw Kim Yu Na, he saw the potential of her skating and began to coach her, which paid off this year as the team won the gold medal for figure skating.