Female figure-skating star Kim Yu-na captured the South Korean national title Sunday with a flawless free-skating performance, qualifying for the upcoming world championships in the process.
At the 2013 Korea Figure Skating Championships, Kim scored 145.80 points to top the free skating portion of the ladies’ singles competition and won the title with a total of 210.77 points.
Kim earned 64.97 points in Saturday’s short program to lead all 18 skaters, despite a rare fall early in the routine.
With Sunday’s victory, Kim, 22, qualified for the 2013 world championships to be held in March in Canada.
Kim Yu-na competes during her free-skate program in Mokdong, Seoul, Sunday. (Yonhap News)
Kim has never finished off the podium in her senior career, which began in 2006.
Before a sellout crowd at Mokdong Ice Rink in western Seoul, Kim performed her free skate to a compilation of songs from the popular musical “Les Miserables.”
She started off with a clean triple lutz-triple toe loop combination to set the tone. She followed up with flawless spins and step sequences, and nailed more jumps the rest of the way to surpass 200 points for her second straight event.
Kim scored 201.61 points to win the NRW Trophy in Germany last month, Kim’s first competitive event in almost two years.
Fifteen-year-old Park So-youn took second place with 108.68 points in the free skate and 161.88 points in total.
Choi Da-bin, a small 12-year-old, was third after scoring 99.88 points in the free skate for a total of 153.09 points.
Kim said she had to battle nerves before taking the ice.
“I settled down once the music started, and I tried to skate like I had in practice,” Kim said in a televised interview.
“I didn’t think I could get over 200 points, but I was able to stay composed until the end.
“The world championships are just around the corner, and I hope to stay healthy and prepare the best I can.”
Kim last competed at the national championships as a junior in 2006.
As the 2009 world champion and the 2010 Olympic gold medalist, Kim entered this event as the overwhelming favorite.
She needed to win this title to qualify for the 2013 world championships.
After the 2011 world championships in Moscow, Kim sat out for 20 months while contemplating her future. The extended hiatus led to speculation that she might retire, but in July last year, Kim announced her return to competitive skating with an eye on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Kim will bid to become only the third female figure skater to successfully defend an Olympic gold medal. Sonja Henie of Norway won three consecutive gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936, and Katarina Witt of Germany claimed back-to-back gold medals in 1984 and 1988.
Because she missed the entire 2011-12 season and the early portion of the ongoing 2012-13 season, Kim was forced to enter the national championships here for a chance to earn her spot at the world championships.
This was the 67th edition of the national figure skating championships, and the Korea Skating Union charged admission for the first time in the event’s history, as Kim Yu-na’s participation drove up fans’ interest. According to the KSU, all 4,800 tickets were sold out within minutes of going on sale online. (Yonhap News)