Ice Network

Borscht belts: Kim lands smoothly in Sochi

Skating in her first practice, the Queen is ready to defend Olympic title
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Yu-Na Kim hopes to add another Olympic gold medal to her collection. -Getty Images

The men's short program at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games was about to begin in the Iceberg Skating Palace, but some of the biggest news in the Sochi skating world came from the practice rink.

Dozens of cameras and reporters crammed into the media area were camped out for a good 45 minutes just to catch their first glimpse of the Queen.

Less than 24 hours after her flight touched down in Russia, Yu-Na Kim skated in her first practice in Sochi. And, if there was any jet lag or wariness from her travel, you would never have known it from the way she skated. Dressed in a black shirt and black tights, Kim rolled through her practice, landing a series of triple Salchows, flips, Lutzes and Lutz-toe combinations.

Her run-through of her short program was as smooth as her travels to Sochi, and she practiced until the Zambonis pushed out onto the rink. Afterward, she graciously took several questions from the waiting media.

"I tried not to think the Olympics are here," she said through an interpreter. "I'm not trying to do my best because it's the Olympics. I'm trying to do my best always."

Kim, the champion in Vancouver four years ago, is trying to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals since Katarina Witt won consecutive titles in 1984 and 1988. Witt and Sonja Henie (who won crowns in 1928, 1932 and 1936) are the only ladies to have successfully defended their Olympic titles.

"Previous athletes have won two times in a row, but it was a different time and it was very different," Kim said, downplaying the historical ramifications of these Winter Games. "It means a lot for me to take part in the Olympics."

Kim flew in from Korea, along with her mom and her teammates, Haejin Kim and So Youn Park. She was asked if she wanted to upgrade to first class, but according to one Korean TV reporter, she opted to sit in business class with her mom and teammates. She arrived around midnight in Sochi and was on the ice for a 6:25 p.m. practice the following evening.

"I was just trying to get used to the ice and continue what I did in Korea," she said. "[The rink] is a pretty fine quality of ice."

Kim did not compete in the Grand Prix Series, and even though her last major competition came at the 2013 World Championships (which she won), she is considered one of the top contenders for the gold medal in Sochi.

However, Russia's Julia Lipinitskaia, who already has a gold medal from these Games from the team event, has emerged as a top threat to dethrone the Queen. Kim said she has watched video of Lipinitskaia's performances and said there is one big difference between the two skaters.

"These Olympics are my last, but for [Lipinitskaia], they are her first," Kim said. "The meaning of the Olympics is different."

Moskvina proud of pairs

With these Winter Games taking place on Russian soil, longtime Russian pairs coach Tamara Moskvina had been looking forward to coaching here. That dream ended after Alexander Smirnov injured his knee earlier this season, meaning he and partner Yuko Kavaguti could not skate at the Olympics. But Moskvina was invited to come to Sochi and even had the honor of sitting behind Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Opening Ceremony.

Moskvina, who was making her 11th trip to an Olympics, was especially pleased to see the Russians win the team competition and, of course, was even more excited to see the Russians finish in first and second place in the pairs event.

"I am very happy that our Russans are the best pairs again and we showed our superiority," Moskvina said. "They both skated very nice programs."

Moskvina also was quick to note this tidbit: The Russian gold medalists, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, and silver medalists, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, are both coached by Nina Mozer. This marked the third time two Russian teams were guided to Olympic medals by the same coach.

In 1992, Natalia Miskutenok and Artur Dmitriev won the gold, and Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov took the silver. In 1998, Oksana Kazakova and Dmitriev won the gold medal, and Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze were the silver medalists.

And you guessed it, Moskvina coached them all.

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