Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Olympics

License to Thrill: Kim wins short program

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — If the Olympics are just another competition, then James Bond is just another secret agent. And Kim Yu-na is just another skater.

No Bond girl ever did it better than Kim's record-setting short program Tuesday night at the Vancouver Olympics. The 19-year-old South Korean, who carries the weight of a nation's infinite expectations for gold, practically carved 007 into the Pacific Coliseum ice as she skated flawlessly to a Bond medley.

"When I got here and when I practiced, I didn't think that this is the Olympics or I have to be perfect," Kim said after setting a world best with 78.50 points. She has a 4.72-point lead over main rival Mao Asada of Japan.

"I have been here before, a year ago. I wasn't really thinking that this is the Olympics. It wasn't that special a feeling, it was the same as other competitions. So I was very comfortable, like the other competitions."

But the other competitions are, well, other competitions. These are the Winter Games, where no South Korean has won a medal in anything but speedskating or short track. Kim is the world champion, and a trailblazer in her sport back home.

All of that could combine to crush many athletes. Kim shrugs it off.

"There's a lot of pressure, but we knew that coming here," said Brian Orser, Kim's coach and the losing half of the "Battle of the Brians" in the 1988 Calgary Games. "We've known that for a couple of years now."

Kim is the biggest favorite to win the Olympic title since Katarina Witt in 1988, potentially adding another layer of anxiety. Instead, she was playfully sexy and sophisticated.

Canada's Joannie Rochette, skating two days after the sudden death of her mother, gave the most moving performance of the night and was third.

"Words cannot describe," Rochette said through Skate Canada. "It was hard to handle, but I appreciate the support."

Rochette was fighting tears as she took her starting pose, then composed herself and let her training mask her grief. But when her music ended, she sharply exhaled and doubled over, no longer able to hold back the tears. She buried her head in longtime coach Manon Perron's shoulder when she left the ice.

"I watched her when she was getting ready to skate and she looked like she was struggling emotionally," Skate Canada CEO William Thompson said. "I think her mother's jumping up and down in the sky. That was the dream performance."

Miki Ando of Japan, the 2007 world winner, was fourth, followed by U.S. champion Rachael Flatt and countrywoman Mirai Nagasu, who skated half her program with a bloody nose. All of them can set their sights on bronze, but getting to the gold is a long shot.

"Queen Yu-na" made it that way.

Kim is so wildly popular she can't leave her parents' house without bodyguards. But in the cauldron of competition, she's as cool as, yes, Bond — James Bond.

"I had waited a long time for the Olympics," Kim said. "I had ample time to practice and prepare, so I wasn't shaky or nervous just because it was the Olympics. I was able to relax and enjoy the competition."

Skating right after Asada, Kim showed no reaction when she heard her rival's marks. When the rowdy cheers finally faded, she took her spot at the end of the rink, slowly unfurled one arm, cocked her index finger like a gun and turned her head to give the judges a sly, seductive smile.

"It was perfect that she skated right after Mao," Orser said, "because she's a competitor. She's very fierce."

Kim doesn't have Asada's triple axel — few women in the world do — but her jumps are no less impressive. Her spins are done with such flexibility they'd make Gumby envious.

What makes her so captivating is her presentation. She played the Bond Girl to the hilt, rubbing her hand up one thigh while glancing over her shoulder at the judges, fixing them with a flirtatious look.

When she saw her marks — 2.22 points better than her previous record — she gave an easy smile.

But she's not exactly a shoo-in for the title. With two triple axels planned, Asada can make up the difference in Thursday night's free skate.

"Usually I think there's like a 10-point difference," Asada said. "So I feel good there's only this difference between myself and Yu-na."

Asada's program was in sharp contrast to Kim's, playful and light. The highlight was, of course, that triple axel, which she did in combination with a double toe — and ripped off like it's a single.

She also was so in tune with her "Masquerade Waltz" that, during her footwork sequence, she did a little hop and an illusion — swooping her head and torso down while her leg is kicking up — just as the music lifted. She beamed during her spiral sequence, which seemed to go on forever.

Asada clasped her hands together and hopped up and down when she finished. She looked stunned when her marks were announced, turning to coach Tatiana Tarasova as if to say, "Is that good?"

"I was nervous at the beginning but then I realized I'm here at the Olympics and I'm skating," Asada said. "That made me very happy and confident."