Kim Yu-na gears up for Olympic challenge

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Kim Yu-na gears up for Olympic challenge


Figure skating star Kim Yu-Na

WINNIPEG, Canada - South Korean figure skating star Kim Yu-Na is no longer considered totally unbeatable heading into next month’s Olympic Winter Games, and her Canadian coach Brian Orser considers that a good thing.

Reigning world champion Kim, 19, looked invincible and was considered by many as a sure bet for a gold medal in the Games after her first Grand Prix competition of the season. In Paris, she soared above the field with a highest-ever women’s total score of 210.03 points. Miscues a few weeks later at Skate America and at last month’s Grand Prix Final in Tokyo, however, have given her rival hope that they can outperform Kim under the Olympic rings in Vancouver. Still, she did win those two events despite slumping scores that were some 22 points off her best.

“Her first Grand Prix was great and she’s had a good short and a good long [program] since then, but she’s also been beaten in the short and the long as well, which I think is good,” Orser said in a telephone interview from Toronto. “I think it would be tough for her to go to the Olympics completely unbeatable. That’s what everybody was saying: She’s unbeatable. But, she’s not. She is beatable.

“This way she trains accordingly and she’ll be competitive. That’s the spirit you have to have,” added Orser, who won Olympic silver in 1984 and again in 1988 in Calgary, where he co-starred with Brian Boitano in the “Battle of the Brians.”

The first week in January marked the beginning of what Orser called “the home stretch” in Kim’s Olympic season training plan.

“She is training really, really well and really, really hard. That’s exactly what she needs and what we’re focusing on,” he said.

The expectation is that Kim will claim an Olympic medal, but Orser says she will not be following in his footsteps when it comes to carrying her nation’s flag in the opening ceremonies on Feb. 12. The plan is for Kim to fly from her training base in Toronto on Friday the 19th and do one practice on Saturday, Sunday and Monday ahead of the women’s short program.

Orser, who led Canadian athletes into the Olympic stadium in 1988, resplendent in his white-fringed red overcoat and white Stetson hat, said he doesn’t know if Kim was even considered for the flag-bearer honor since the Korean Olympic Committee knew she would still be training during the Games’ first week.

“She likes to stay put and go in as late as possible. If we went out for the first week, I think it would be distracting for her. She needs to stay focused,” he said. “She’ll watch it on television. She’s cool with that. She doesn’t feel like she’s really missing anything.”

Orser will spend much of the next 12 days travelling to and from Spokane, Washington, where his promising American students Adam Rippon and Christina Gao will compete at the U.S. Championships on subsequent weekends. AFP
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