|Kim Yu-na of South Korea during the award ceremony of Golden Spin of Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia, Dec. 7. |
South Korean figure skating star Kim Yu-na is scheduled to make her final competitive appearance at home this weekend, as she prepares to defend her Olympic gold medal in Russia.
Goyang Oulimnuri Ice Rink in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, northwest of Seoul, will host the 2014 South Korean national figure skating championships, where Kim will take the ice as the defending champ and the overwhelming favorite.
The ladies’ short program is set for Saturday, followed by free skating on Sunday. Because Kim is so far ahead of the domestic competition, the focus won’t be so much on whether she can win another national title, but whether she can fine-tune her programs before the Sochi Winter Olympics next month.
The reigning Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion has already said she will retire after Sochi. She chose to enter the national championships for one last time as her final preparatory event before the Winter Games.
Had it not been for the foot injury she suffered last September, Kim likely wouldn’t have participated in the domestic event.
The unexpected setback forced Kim to miss her two scheduled appearances during the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix seasons in October and November.
Kim made her competitive return at a minor event called the Golden Spin of Zagreb in Croatia in December. She won it handily but also made rare mistakes in jumps and steps, prompting her to make at least one more competitive appearance before Sochi for better preparation.
Kim followed a similar course during her 2012-2013 season. She ended a long competitive hiatus and won a minor event in Germany in December 2012, and then captured her national title in January 2013, before going on to win her second career world championship two months later in Canada.
Crowds in Goyang, itching to get their one final look at Kim on home ice, will be hoping the 2013-2014 season will also end on a winning note for their figure skating darling. The anticipation for the skater dubbed “Queen Yu-na” was such that tickets for the championships were sold out in just 15 minutes online.
Kim will skate her short program to the musical ballad “Send in the Clowns,” and her free skate will be set to a tango piece titled “Adios Nonino.”
In her season debut in Croatia last month, Kim’s short program appeared to fall somewhat flat compared to some of her earlier routines, but it featured a series of delicate steps and spins. In winning the Croatian event, Kim set her short program career-high with 35.00 points in the program component score (PCS), which measures skaters’ choreography and presentation.
Her free skating routine, a dense, breathless program jam-packed with complicated steps set to the shifting rhythm of the tango music, looked to be a stark contrast to the short program. In Croatia, Kim put on a sizzling performance, save for an early landing mistake on her opening triple lutz-triple toe loop combination.
After her open practice held on New Year’s Day, Kim said her goal at the national championships is to try to sharpen both of her programs.
“In free skating in Zagreb, I didn’t perform spins and steps the way I wanted to,” she said. “I wasn’t perfect since it was my first event of the season. I am going to focus on making my programs better this time.”
Also in the field on the weekend will be two teenagers hoping to follow in Kim’s footsteps.
Park So-youn and Kim Hae-jin, both 17, have qualified for Sochi, their first-ever Winter Olympics. They have won ISU Junior Grand Prix medals and are viewed as potential successors to Kim Yu-na’s throne in South Korean figure skating.
Kim Hae-in won three straight South Korean titles from 2010 to 2012, with Kim Yu-na absent, but placed fourth last year. Park has finished second in the past three national championships. (Yonhap News)