Published : 2010-03-29 23:29
Updated : 2010-03-29 23:29
By Oh Kyu-wook
Five years ago, when Kim Yu-na won a silver medal in the junior Grand Prix final, she was still unknown outside Korea.
"I want to become a skater like a (two-time American Olympic medalist) Michelle Kwan one day and then go much further," Kim said. At the time the then 14-year-old Kim said that not many were convinced. She looked like an ordinary teenager with spots on her forehead and wearing braces.
But no more than a year later, she made people believe. Making her senior debut at the 2006 Skate Canada, where she won a bronze, Kim won two gold medals, including Grand Prix final, in that season.
Although she missed competing in the 2006 Winter Games because of her age, the figure skating queen-to-be continued her rise, setting a world record in the short program with 71.95 points at the 2007 World Championships.
Working in Toronto with former Canadian Olympic medalist Brian Orser since 2006, she not only sharpened her skills but was also able to focus solely on skating.
Since then Kim, nicknamed "Queen Yu-na" in Korea, has been dominant in the women`s figure skating.
Apart from finishing third at the 2008 World Championship, the queen has been virtually unbeatable in recent years, sweeping most competitions including 2008 and 2009 Skate America and the 2009 ISU Four Continents Championship.
She became the first woman to top the 200-point mark at the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championship with 207.71 points, then smashed her own record in the 2009 Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris with 210.03.
Still some had doubts when she came to Vancouver as the one to beat in the 2010 Winter Games, given that the gold medal favorites at the last three Olympics, including five-time world champion Michelle Kwan, failed to win the gold. In addition, she came into the Olympics with the most pressure.
Despite all that, the reigning world champion produced one of the most memorable performances in Olympic history in Vancouver by becoming the second Asian to win the gold in figure skating.
After watching Kim`s performance, Kwan confessed that the 19-year-old Kim is now almost unchallengeable.
"I don`t think anyone has ever done a triple lutz-triple toe for the Olympics, and to do it so well," Kwan told the USA today.
Kim is already one of the highest-paid athletes in Korea. Her annual income reportedly at $8 million from sponsorship and endorsement deals with major Korean companies, including Samsung and Hyundai. Reports speculate that her salary will be easily doubled due to her success in Vancouver.
PyeongChang is expecting that the figure queen`s gold will help its bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. The city in Gangwon Province is in fierce competition with Munich of German and Annecy in France.