|Korea’s Kim Yu-na takes part in a practice session on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)|
Recovered from a recent foot injury, figure skating star Kim Yu-na will make her much-anticipated season debut in the Croatian capital this week, as she gets ready to defend her Olympic gold medal next year.
The reigning Olympic champion from South Korea will take the ice at the Golden Spin of Zagreb on Friday, starting with the short program. The free skate is scheduled for Saturday.
It will be Kim's first international competition of this season and also her first prep event before she embarks on her Olympic title defense at the Sochi Winter Games in Russia next February.
The two-time world champion suffered a foot injury in September that forced her to withdraw from both of her scheduled appearances in the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix events in October and November.
The injury appeared to derail her preparations for Sochi, but Kim announced in early November that she was healthy enough to enter the minor event in Croatia for a tune-up.
Speaking to reporters in South Korea on Tuesday, before departing for Croatia, Kim said she was up to "80 to 90 percent" healthy, as she tries to peak in time for the Olympics.
She had her first practice on Wednesday night at Dom Sportova arena, where she said she tried to get her feel for the ice.
"Since it was the first day, I felt a bit fatigued, but I concentrated on adjusting to the ice," she told reporters. "In addition to my jump elements, I also practiced steps and overall footwork."
Kim appeared to have some trouble in the small arena, once nearly crashing into a fence and missing the second jump of her triple lutz-triple toe loop combination. She later said she will have to keep the size of the rink in mind for her step sequences as well as her jumps.
Kim has already declared Sochi will be her last Olympics but said Wednesday that she won't look too far ahead.
"I'd rather focus on this competition and not think about Sochi this week," she said. "I know I am drawing more attention as the Olympics near, but I will try to stay relaxed."
In Croatia, Kim will also unveil her new programs for the first time. Her short program has been choreographed to "Send in the Clowns," a ballad from the 1973 musical, "A Little Night Music."
She will perform her free skate to "Adios Nonino," a tango piece from 1959.
Kim is returning to the ice for the first time since winning her second world title nine months ago, but she has already dealt with an extended layoff in the past.
She skipped the ISU Grand Prix events in the 2010-2011 season and finished second in the 2011 world championships in April.
Then Kim sat out the entire 2011-2012 season, contemplating her future career options, and ended her hiatus in December 2012 at the NRW Trophy, a minor event in Germany.
She won it handily and dominated the South Korean national championship in January this year, before taking her second world championship two months later in Canada. (Yonhap News)