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Kim embraces challenge and change

Had doubts whether she would continue

At times when Yu-Na Kim tried to master her new programs, she wondered why she was continuing after winning Olympic gold.
At times when Yu-Na Kim tried to master her new programs, she wondered why she was continuing after winning Olympic gold. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(04/30/2011) - After winning Olympic gold in stunning fashion, many thought Yu-Na Kim might retire from competition to full-time reap the rewards of country's adulation, including her many endorsements and shows.

At times, while the 20-year-old Korean worked to master new programs with a new coach at a new rink this winter, she too wondered why she was continuing.

"It didn't take too much time to feel my stamina, but mentally it was so hard to focus," Kim told reporters after her winning, but imperfect, short program.

"I [kept] asking myself, 'Why do I have to do this? Why? I kept asking myself these questions."

Whether or not Kim skates a perfect free skate and wins her second world title, she has already proven her competitive mettle, putting out impressive practices all week here in Moscow.

Performing her short to music from the ballet Giselle, Kim's vaunted triple Lutz-triple toe failed her when a shaky landing on the Lutz prevented her from trying the second jump.

Although she quickly regrouped, tacking a double toe on to a triple flip, the mistake surprised Kim's coach Peter Oppegard, the 1988 U.S. Olympic pairs bronze medalist who trains the skater at the EastWest Palace in Artesia, Calif.

"I think what happened was, she said she was a tiny bit nervous, because she hadn't been out there," Oppegard said.

"Aside from that, I think she skated that Lutz a little carefully. It's such a good combination for her, she has to move down the ice and attack it."

Kim joined forces with Oppegard after a messy public break-up with former coach Brian Orser, who coached her in Toronto for the seasons leading into the 2010 Olympics.

"I changed my skating career a lot," Kim said. "Emotionally after the Olympics and before, I wanted to start new and begin in a new atmosphere.

"I had so much advice and recommendations; I decided to take a new coach, Peter. The first time I met Peter I was visiting L.A. when I was nine years old, so it is kind of unusual we are training together again."

Kim elected not to try out her programs at the 2011 ISU Four Continents Championships, held in Taipei in February, instead arriving in Moscow having not competed in more than a year.

At her last event, the 2010 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, she made several mistakes in her short program, losing her world title to Mao Asada despite winning the free skate.

Here, she will not have to come from behind. The judging panel recognized her skating skills and emotional performance and put her in a virtual tie with 2007 world champion Miki Ando, who had a clean but artistically less ambitious program. Kim has a tiny .33-point lead entering free skate.

"I was a little nervous, I have to confess," Kim said of her wait for marks in the kiss and cry. "I made the error and I wondered what the score would be. Also, I didn't know what the other skaters got."

Kim and longtime choreographer David Wilson designed Giselle as a departure from the skater's flashy Bond girl short, which won universal accolades last season.

She's taking even more artistic risks in her "Homage to Korea" free skate, choreographed by Wilson to a compilation of traditional Korean music. She calls the program a kind of "love letter" to her homeland.

"I already achieved my goals at the Olympics and worlds, so I wanted to show my new character in my program and show my fans my performances," Kim said. "Actually all my Olympic programs received high scores and I was looking for something better.

"I thought about doing Korean music for my free skate [last season] but the timing was not right. Now, I think the time is right to present Korean music to my fans."