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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 26, 2010

Kim sets record in skating to gold

 •  2010 Winter Olympics results
 •  Olympic TV schedule
 •  Canada shuts out U.S. women for gold
 •  U.S., Finland face off in hockey semifinals
 •  U.S. men ski to historic 1-2 finish
 •  Olympic daily schedule
 •  Risky jump reaps silver


By NANCY ARMOUR
Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kim Yu-na, who won Olympic gold, said it was the first time she cried after a performance. "I can't believe this day has finally come for me," she said.

MARK BAKER | Associated Press

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia Kim Yu-na put one hand to her mouth and let the tears flow.

All that pressure, so many expectations. The "Queen" took it all on and delivered royally.

The South Korean won the Olym-pic gold medal last night, soaring to a world-record 228.56 points and shattering her previous mark by more than 18 points. It may go down as one of the greatest performances in figure skating history, and it's sure to set off wild celebrations from Seoul to Pyongchang. It's South Korea's first medal at the Winter Olympics in a sport other than speedskating.

Even Kim seemed to be dazzled by the show she put on, gasping when she saw the monstrous score. Coach Brian Orser gave a Rocky-like victory pump, shaking his clasped fists over each shoulder.

"I can't believe this day has finally come for me," Kim said.

Longtime rival Mao Asada of Japan won the silver medal, but it was no contest even with Asada landing both her triple axels, one in combination with a double toe loop. Joannie Rochette, skating four days after the sudden death of her mother, won the bronze, giving Canada its first women's medal since Liz Manley's silver in 1988.

The Americans, meanwhile, are going home without at least one medal for only the second time since 1952. The other time? 1964, three years after a plane crash wiped out the entire U.S. team on its way to the world championships.

Mirai Nagasu was fourth while U.S. champion Rachael Flatt dropped to seventh.

Kim came in bearing almost incomprehensible pressure. Not only was the reigning world champ the biggest favorite since Katarina Witt in 1988 she's lost just one competition over the last two seasons she carried the weight of an entire nation on her slim shoulders.

The most popular athlete in South Korea, she's been dubbed "Queen Yu-na" check out the sparkly crowns that twinkle in her ears and she needs bodyguards whenever she returns home from her training base in Toronto. Anything she does creates a frenzy, and even a simple practice draws a rinkful of photographers.

Kim grinned as she hopped up to the top spot on the podium, tugging at the bottom of her dress. Her lip quivered when the South Korean anthem began, and then came the tears.

"I don't know why I cried," Kim said. "This is the first time I have cried after my performance and I'm surprised I cried."

There were simply no visible flaws in Kim's performance, from her skating to her expressions to that lovely cobalt blue dress. While other skaters slow down as they approach their jumps to steady themselves, she hurtles into them at full speed yet touches down with feathery lightness. Her connecting steps are like art on ice, and her edges show not even the slightest hint of a harsh scrape, just the sound of her crisp edge. Her spins were centered so perfectly the tracings look as if they were made with a protractor, and she's got to be quadruple-jointed with all the positions she manages in her combination spins.

But what really makes her transcendent is her performance skills. She breathed life into Gershwin's "Concerto in F," moving across the ice like notes on a score. As the music lifted the first time, she put one hand on the small of her back and gave a flirty little smile that set shutters clicking throughout the building.

When she finished, you could almost see the pressure fall away as Kim bent over and cried.

It almost wasn't fair that Asada, skating next, had to try and one-up that.

She couldn't. Not even close.

Asada, who has swapped titles with Kim since their junior days, is one of the few women who even tries a points-packing triple axel, and she did two on this night. But she melted down later, stumbling on the footwork into her triple toe and forcing her to cut it to a single.