Golden Yuna joins all time skate greats

By Pritha Sarkar

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Olympic men's figure skaters will be thanking their lucky stars they did not have to compete against Kim Yuna after the South Korean delivered a seminal exhibition that will go down as one of the greatest of all time.

The 19-year-old Yuna stepped on to the ice carrying the weight of expectation from 50-million South Koreans on her dainty shoulders.

Four exquisite minutes later, the woman already hailed as Queen Yuna in her homeland, was crowned Olympic champion after annihilating her rivals and could not understand what all the fuss was about.

"After it was over, I thought 'Well, maybe the Games aren't as hard as I thought'," said a beaming Kim.

It is not what her rivals thought.

She scored a record 78.50 points for her short program, a record 150.06 for the free skate and a combined total of 228.56 points -- shattering her previous world record by more than 18 points.

It would also have placed her ninth in the men's event and had she competed for another 30 seconds as they do, adding in a 13th element, her score would have bumped her up even higher.

Her closest rival Mao Asada became the first woman to pull off two triple Axels in an Olympic program but still trailed the champion by more than 23 points.

In tennis terms the score was like Roger Federer beating Rafael Nadal 6-0 6-1 6-1 in a Wimbledon final.

No wonder the Korean dissolved into tears after her electrifying performance.

"It was a terrific night. I felt sorry for Mao as her world record of two triple Axels were somehow overshadowed by the glorious skate that Yuna Kim had," 1980 men's Olympic champion Robin Cousins told Reuters on Friday.

FLAWLESS PERFORMANCE

"It was great to see at the end that she wasn't a robot but a human being as tears welled up. She has obviously been carrying the weight of her nation and also in a way a home country favorite as she's trained here by a great Canadian Olympian (Brian Orser) who is beloved by his nation.

"At the end of the event last night, to see her guard come down a little bit and for her to allow herself to express what has been building was fantastic. It was a flawless performance."

Kim had Orser leaping up in the air each time she nailed one of her 11 jumps -- seven of which were in combination.

The cheering crowd, however, were also enchanted with the way she elegantly travelled around on her blades etching a masterpiece on the ice during every second of her routine.

She had 12,000 fans in the arena and millions more around the world on the edge of their seats as she performed her captivating spins and her snappy step sequences -- all delivered with flirtatious looks into the camera.

"If someone asked me who they should look at (across the generations) I would say Janet Lynn, Dorothy Hamill, Katarina Witt and definitely Yuna. There isn't a move Yuna makes that doesn't give her points," said Cousins.

When her score flashed up, even a wide-eyed Kim and Orser were astonished with the verdict.

"I thought it was going to be 130 or 140 and I was shocked when I saw the score," Kim told Reuters TV on Friday. "I thought, 'Is this score something that's really possible?' That's what was going through my mind."

Orser added: "To see her live, it is sensational. That's when you get those magical moments."

(Editing by Jon Bramley)