looking for fresh blood
LA Times 4-page article on Yu-Na Kim
About training in Toronto and coach Brian Orser:
"But everything Kim does is a big deal in South Korea, where a newspaper has named her the country's "person of the year" the last two years and respondents to a Gallup poll have chosen her as South Korea's top athlete the last three years.
So it is no coincidence that Kim has attained that stature and become the Olympic gold-medal favorite as a skating emigre.
"I can't really focus on my skating in Korea because the media and everyone is watching me," she said.
She has trained in Toronto since 2006, finding comfort in the club's atmosphere of British exclusivity, what with its namesake activities and lawn bowling greens and croquet courts and $18,000 senior members' initiation fee. The protection against constant scrutiny from South Korean media that comes with such surroundings is a big part of its appeal for Kim.
"I'm not used to this type of circus," Brian Orser said. "Even in 1988, it wasn't as big as this."
In 1988, the only other time the Winter Olympics were in Canada, Orser was the country's best hope for a gold medal. He won a silver, and Canada got no gold, making Orser want to apologize to the country.
Now he is Kim's coach, the one about whom South Korean newspapers have written, "Coach Orser is the savior." Said Kim's agent, Michelle Ha: "Brian is the most popular foreigner in Korea."
About her popularity, salary, endorsements, and charity:
"I don't really know why [the Korean people] love me," Kim said. "Maybe it's because figure skating isn't just about who won, it's also artistic.
"People don't just see me when I am figure skating. They also watch the sport and the performance."
Kim's mother struggles with the idea that her daughter is the person whose face is everywhere in South Korea.
"The Yuna I know is the Yuna during training and competition, and that image of her stays with me," Park said. "I can't feel the superstar Yuna with my skin."
As an endorser for Samsung, LG, Hyundai, KB Kookmin Bank (South Korea's national bank), Nike and Korean Air, as well as several other smaller companies, Kim earns a reported $9 million a year. She recently gave $100,000 to a Haiti relief fund, previously had donated $100,000 to buy school uniforms for needy Korean schoolchildren, and she pays for the Korean federation's junior skating program.
Using what it called the "Kim Yuna marketing strategy," Samsung's "Yuna Haptic" mobile phone sold a local record 1 million units in the first seven months after its introduction last May.
On the Olympics:
"Anything that involves Korea and Japan carries with it the emotional baggage of the past history between these neighbors," said Daniel Sneider, associate director for research at Stanford's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. "In the Korean mind, it is a history of Japanese invasion and occupation going back to the 16th century, which makes sports competition more than just about sports. To beat the Japanese in anything has an importance in terms of pride.
"She [Kim] can't be ignorant of the fact she has the weight of a nation and the weight of the past on her shoulders."
They are slim shoulders, atop a willowy body that seemed especially ethereal in the black tights and sweater Kim wore to practice. Her strength is concealed, as is a mental toughness Orser once wondered about.
"She knows when to turn it on and off," he said.
In 1992, Japanese skater Midori Ito apologized to her country for winning just silver in the Olympics. Kim cannot understand why she would have to say "I'm sorry" to Korea if she does not win gold in Vancouver.
"Competing or winning competitions, it's not for my country, it's for me," Kim said. "I'm doing it for myself, not to win awards for Koreans. I am not skating just to win gold. I am skating for skating."
On her "non-perfect" performances this season:
Kim looked untouchable at the 2010 Olympics until losing the free skate at Skate America to Rachael Flatt of the U.S. and short program at the Grand Prix Final to Ando three weeks later. Now she is merely a heavy favorite. "Of anyone in the whole Olympic figure skating, she is the shoo-in," Carroll said. "She would have to screw up badly to lose."
Kim figured she took some pressure off herself with the flawed performances in her last two competitions. "I think in Korea, now they know I couldn't skate perfect every time," she said.
FULL ARTICLE: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb...im11-2010feb11