“D-Day 04!!! Countdown to Korean Nationals! Yuna’s final tune-up event before the Sochi Olympics” – on the facebook account of All That Yuna, someone’s counting the days till the beginning of the National Championships. And rightly so: Yuna has chosen Nationals as her final test before the Olympics in Sochi; and the first series of tickets were sold in a matter of minutes: 15, actually. For Yuna, this is the second competition of the season, with Golden Spin of Zagreb being the first and the Olympics, the third and, most likely, the last one. Under these circumstances, one can easily understand the enthusiasm of the Korean fans: for those not going to Sochi, this is the last chance to see their “queen” skating in an official competition; and it’s definitely the last time they can see her skating competitively on home soil. The National Championships are hosted by Goyang Eoullimnuri Ice Rink, in Goyang, near Seoul, at the beginning of January (3-5), and the entire figure skating world is waiting for this “final dress rehearsal” before Sochi.
by Florentina Tone
Here’s the event schedule for senior ladies at the South Korea Nationals, as it was put together by All That Yuna:
January 3 (Friday)
Official Practice starts at 18:00
January 4 (Saturday)
Official Practice starts at 7:00
Short Program starts at 14:04; last group begins at 17:12
January 5 (Sunday)
Official Practice starts at 8:15
Free Skating starts at 12:54; last group begins at 15:32
More than 3.000 tickets have already been sold on December 27 in a matter of minutes; but if you’re interested in buying, you might have one last chance of doing that today. According to Steven Choi, reporting for Arirang News, “The Korea Figure Skating Championships’ online ticket sales opened at 1 p.m. on Friday [December 27] and sold out within 15 minutes. That’s 3.100 tickets sold for the national competition taking place from January 3rd through the 5th in Goyang, north of Seoul. Those who were unable to buy tickets on Friday may want to mark down Monday, December 30th on the calendar, when the remaining tickets, almost 800 of them, go on sale”.
A short recap: where does Yuna stand before Nationals
At her first competitive event – the 2013 Golden Spin of Zagreb – Yuna earned the highest score of the season for her short program, 73.37 points, and a combined total of 204.49 points, slightly higher than that of Mao Asada at the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka (204.02 points). Most likely, Yuna is going to earn much more than that at the South Korea Championships.
It’s not only the fact that judges tend to be more generous at the Nationals – see the case of Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaia at the Russian Nationals (212.77 points and 210.81 points respectively); or even Akiko Suzuki at the Japanese Championships (215.18 points) – but Yuna Kim surely won’t be making the mistakes she made in Zagreb: at her first competition of the season, the Korean skater seemed a little shaky and unprepared and even missed her triple-triple combination at the beginning of the free program.
Will Yuna match the record of Katarina Witt?
With the Nationals being her final event before Sochi, Yuna will enter the Olympic competition on February 19 (Ladies Short Program, 19:00-23:30, Iceberg Skating Palace) and February 20 (Ladies Free Skating, 19:00-22:55, Iceberg Skating Palace), accompanied by her fellow skaters Kim Hae-Jin and Park So-Youn. Given her gold medal at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships in London, Canada, Yuna Kim managed to earn three Olympic berths for South Korea in the Ladies event – something that has never happened before in the history of the South Korean figure skating.
Already having earned an Olympic gold in Vancouver in 2010, Yuna Kim will attempt to defend her title in Sochi, Russia; if she manages to win this consecutive gold, “Queen Yuna” – as she is named in Korea – will match the record of the German Katarina Witt (gold in Sarajevo 1984 and Calgary 1988). But probably no one will ever match Sonja Henie’s record, with her three consecutive gold medals (St. Moritz 1928, Lake Placid 1932 and Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936).
Until the Olympics, Yuna Kim finishes the year with outstanding appreciation: she’s been voted 2013 Female Athlete of the Year by the United States Sports Academy, alongside Rafael Nadal, the Male Athlete of the Year. It’s the second time Yuna’s receiving this particular award: she won it three years ago for earning the gold medal at Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Nadal and Kim dominated the voting in the 29th year of the Academy’s Awards of Sport program. Online voting took place on the Academy’s website at www.ussa.edu from Dec. 1-20 and was done in conjunction with NBC Sports. This year’s ballot included 12 men and 12 women who came from 11 different countries, including two athletes each from Jamaica and South Korea. The runner up to Kim in the Female Athlete of the Year voting was No. 1-ranked Serena Williams.