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Yu-Na Kim sidelined with hip injury

Skater will miss Four Continents

Yu-Na Kim.
Yu-Na Kim. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(02/08/2008) - Two Korean skaters with the surname Kim will compete next week at the Four Continents Championships, but neither of them will be world bronze medalist and two-time Grand Prix Final champion Yu-Na Kim.

The same injury that forced the world's top-ranked skater off the ice last season for six weeks has flared up again, forcing her to withdraw from the event in her home country of South Korea.

Soreness resulting from inflammation in her SI (sacroiliac) joint -- which joins the pelvis to the base of the spine -- kept Kim off the ice for five days last week. She had hoped resting would improve matters, but when she skated again this past Sunday and Monday her condition worsened.

Brian Orser, the 1987 world champion who coaches Kim in Toronto, said his student made the final decision to scratch her name from the Four Continents entry list. Kim hopes missing Four Continents will increase the odds of regaining her health for the world championships in March.

With Kim's withdrawal, her archrival Mao Asada of Japan, will be the heavy favorite to claim the crown at Four Continents.

Earlier this season, Orser said Kim's troubles with her SI joint had not been completely fixed, and that the pain seemed to increase the harder she worked heading into a competition. Kim has her own physiotherapist who moved from Korea to Canada to provide her with massage therapy.

Kim is experiencing discomfort in her left hip with the pain increasing when her left foot crosses under the right doing forward and backward cross-cuts. Ironically, jumping is not as painful. Previously, the pain had been centered around her tailbone.

She will forgo doing anything that causes pain for two weeks and will test her body after the pain has completely subsided to see what she can do. At that point, there would be just three-and-a-half weeks until worlds.

"She will be fine. That's why we're doing this," Orser emphasized. "I really wanted her to have this competition between Grand Prix Final and worlds, because everybody else in the world gets to do their nationals where you're in a pressure cooker -- U.S., Canadian and Japanese. But, she doesn't, and her next big thing will be worlds."

Kim has been seeing Korean doctors in Toronto who advised she needs to keep from aggravating her hip and back for a little while.

"If she pushes through it [the pain] like she did last year, she'll end up hurting so much," Orser reported.

Orser recalled that last season before worlds, Kim would hobble off the ice after only 30 minutes of training and could hardly put weight on her leg.

"It was a tough decision because of [Four Continents] being in Korea, but, this time, she's going to put her body first. We want her to be ready for worlds. We want her to be 100 percent, because last year she was like 50 percent," Orser added.

"The only run-through of her long program last year was [competing] at the Grand Prix Final, and the next one was at worlds in the competition. She couldn't train. This year she knows if she pushes through, she can damage it and that's going to put worlds into jeopardy."

Orser believes that all the twisting and turning of the body that is now required to score well for footwork and spins is a factor in the increasing number of skaters suffering from hip problems. He noted that Australian skater Sean Carlow, who now trains with him in Toronto, also withdrew from Four Continents with a hip injury.

"You have to be a contortionist," he said of the extreme body positions skaters now feature in their programs.

Na-Young Kim and Chae-Hwa Kim will represent Korea at Four Continents according to the official ISU entry list. In media reports, the Korean Skating Union has stated that Na-hee Shin will replace Yu-Na Kim. However, Shin did not appear as a substitute on the initial list, and according to ISU rules that could preclude her addition to the roster.