Before starting, there are some key informations about ladies' figure skating that some people may not know. Figure skating is a type of sport in which players do spins, jumps, and steps on the ice. Unlike most sports, the players are judged by technical elements (how well they completed their jumps, spins, and steps) and program components (how well they interpreted the music). Jumps are when skaters take off and spin in the air. The types in order of difficulty are the Toe Loop, the Salchow, the Loop, the Flip, the Lutz, and the Axel. The Toe Loop usually comes at the end of a combination jump, which is two or more jumps linked together. The points depend on the type and the number of rotation. Spins are when skaters spin multiple times in a certain position. Top skaters change positions during a spin to do a combination spin. Steps are when skaters make certain shapes on the ice and move as if they're walking on the ice. Skaters have to do two programs in a competition: the Short Program of approximately 2 minutes and a Free Skate of 4.
Born on the 4th of September 1990, Yuna Kim represented the Republic of Korea as a figure skater from 2006 to 2014. She started skating along with her sister at the age of 5 when her coach suggested that she should start her career as a figure skater. However, figure skating wasn't a popular sport in Korea. There wasn't a private rink for practicing and it was tough buying new boots every time her feet grew since no companies sponsored her. As a junior skater, she won a silver in the junior championships and a gold the following year. After, she debuted as a senior in the 2006-2007 season along with her injuries she got due to the poor training.
During that time, South Korea had no interest for figure skating. Because of that, even when Yuna's skates were falling apart, there weren't any places where she could fix it. That made the situation worse. Whenever she tried to land jumps, the pain would come. Despite the difficulties, she won the Grand Prix Finals (GPF), the first major competition. However, the biggest skating competition was considered to be the ISU World Championships (WC). Yuna set a new world record for the short program in that competition with the point of 71.95. This amazed skating fans all over the world as nobody expected such a young skater from an unfamiliar country to break the record. However, her injuries held her back in the free skating and made her fall while landing two jumps. She finished third, but became the first Korean skater to ever win a medal at the World Championships.
After the 2007 WC, Yuna switched agencies from IMG to IB Sports. The reason was that IMG wasn't quite supportive to her and ignored her requests for sponsorships. IMG Korea sued Yuna Kim for leaving the agency, but later suggested that they would drop the case if she appears in their ice show. Yuna had no choice but to agree. However, on the first day of the show, the roof of the arena caught fire and the ice show was cancelled. At the press conference where everyone waited for an explanation, the only person they encountered was 16 year old Yuna Kim. She apologized instead of the IMG officials and held a free ice show in all alone. Nevertheless, IMG Korea did not drop the case.
After the incident, Yuna prepared the new program for the 2007-2008 season with her coach Brian Orser. She still suffered from the back pain from the previous season, but she continued training. Yuna had a signature jump. She always opened her program with a triple flip + triple toe loop combination. The flip jump is taken off with an inside edge of the skate, and the lutz is taken off with the outside. If the two jumps are taken off with a wrong edge, the skater loses points. Most skaters only use one of the two jumps in the program to prevent the 'wrong edge', but Yuna was one of the rare skaters who could do both jumps correctly. Even when the slow-motion video of her flip jump showed that she took off with an inside edge, the judges marked it as a wrong edge. Still, she won all the competitions in this season before the WC. However, the pain came back, making her fall during her triple lutz in the short program of the WC. In the free skating,
she jumped a single lutz instead of a triple, but otherwise, the performance was clean. The audience was amazed by the free skating because in the warm-up, she showed several difficulties. But when she went to the Kiss and Cry Zone to get the score, she was disappointed. The score was way lower than what she was expecting. She got a bronze medal again, leaving the commenters and the audience in shock. The gold medalist, Mao Asada fell before doing a triple axel, then did nothing for the next 20 seconds (according to the ISU judging system, if there are no components for 10 seconds, the skater loses points). However, there was no sign of degradation in that section. Sonia Bianchetti, the former referee of ISU stated that even though Yuna placed 5th, she would've won the gold medal if the judges gave her the fair judgement.
During the 2008-2009 season, Yuna overcame her injuries and started off the season. There still were some controversial judgements, but she won 1st in all competitions other than the GPF (silver). In the 4 Continents Championships, Yuna won gold, breaking her own world record with the short program 'Danse Macabre'. In the 2009 WC held in LA, Yuna Kim was confident as she was in a good condition unlike the past 2 years. She showed a great performance and amazed many skating fans who missed the old judging system (which focused more on the program component score), as there weren't so many skaters who emphasized the artistic side of figure skating. She broke the world record again for the short program. The free skating 'Scheherazade' was actually dedicated to Michelle Kwan, a former American figure skater. She was Yuna's role model. In the 2009 WC held in LA, Yuna performed this in front of Michelle Kwan who also used this music for her program during her career. Furthermore, during the 2008-2009 season, female skaters had a 'dream score'. No female skater has ever gotten 200 points as a total. One has gotten 199.57, but that was the closest. However, in the WC, Yuna received a total of 207.71 points, becoming the first woman to pass the total point of 200. She did not jump the triple salchow in the free skating which showed that she could've gotten a higher score.
The 2009-2010 season was special. The Vancouver Winter Olympics were held that season. Yuna was extra careful with herself while training so that she doesn't let the same things happen all over again- not being able to do her best due to injuries. She set a new record for the short, free, and the total, all in the two Grand Prix Series. Then she won the GPF which was her 3rd GPF gold medal in her career. The Olympic Games followed after. The people from all over the world thought either Yuna or Mao would become the champion, since Mao Asada was famous for her triple axels which were usually done by male skaters.
Yuna had to perform after Mao Asada in the short program. Mao got a high score, landing all the triple axels. Then Yuna followed. Despite the incredible lead of Mao, she skated without a single sign of anxiety and set a new record (78.50). It is considered to be the longest holding record for short programs (4.5 years until it was broken). Two days later, the situation was reversed. Yuna had to perform before Mao. She did an amazing job, mesmerizing the audience. An NBC commenter even said, "Oh my goodness, this is glorious. It is one of the greatest Olympic performances I have ever seen!" She broke the old record for the free skating (150.06) and the total (228.56). The free skating record was broken during the 2016 WC and the total is still the world record. The three records are still the olympic records. After the excitement, it was Mao's turn to skate. She successfully landed the triple axels, but she made a few mistakes due to the nervousness and the pressure. She got the total of 205.50. Yuna Kim therefore became the olympic champion. She was the first to beat all three records in a single international competition, and the first Korean olympic medalist.
During her career, Yuna Kim broke the world record 11 times in total, 8 of them being her own. She is the first and only skater to have never finished off the podium. Due to the word limit, her story (of her return and the controversial judgement in Sochi) cannot be finished, but I can say she's considered to be one of the greatest skaters of all time.
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