Huge burden lifted off my shoulders: Kim Yuna

By Karolos Grohmann

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - South Korea's Kim Yuna can finally relax and not need to think about the future after the teenager rose to the occasion and won the gold medal in the women's figure skating on Thursday.

The 19-year-old was the overwhelming favorite to finish top of the podium but said the pressure going into the event was immense.

"I feel now as if a huge burden has been lifted," the Games' highest-earning female athlete -- she makes an estimated $8 million a year -- said after her dazzling, near-perfect program where she nailed all of her 11 jumps.

"I will enjoy this moment and think about things later. I was just thrilled on the podium and I feel so relieved. I had been running toward this dream of the Olympics and was so happy to be here," she said.

"Since I have accomplished the most important goal in my life I am going to enjoy this moment for a while and then think about what I am going to do," a beaming Yuna said.

Japanese rival Mao Asada took silver while Joannie Rochette of Canada grabbed the bronze medal four days after her mother died.

"I still cannot believe I did what I wanted to do at the Olympics. I have been dreaming about this moment and I cannot believe it is not a dream any more," said Yuna.

South Korea was banking on her to grab their first gold medal in figure skating and the first Winter Olympics gold medal outside short track and speed skating.

"I was just happy to have skated a clean program. It was the first time I skated two clean programs. During the program when I finished all elements I thought 'this is going to be yeah ... this is it'."

(Additional reporting by Sonia Oxley)