South Korean figure skating sensation Kim Yu-Na wowed the crowd at the Vancouver Games with a world record-setting performance, earning the gold medal and the brief sense that maybe her 19 joyless, pressure-filled years on earth have not all been for naught.
"I am very glad to have won the gold medal and to have lived up to my people's expectations," Kim said after her performance. "Do you think I can watch TV now?"
The South Korean bested Japan's own 19-year-old skating star, Mao Asada, who skated well, became the first female skater to land three triple Axels, won silver, and is a complete and total failure. "If only I had not eaten that handful of Skittles on my 10th birthday," said Asada, "things could have been different. It's just another regret I have right up there with being born."
Kim acknowledged there was intense pressure on her to win and said "a weight has been lifted from my shoulders." But her coach, Brian Orser, said the weights will be placed back upon her shoulders first thing tomorrow morning for her 5:15 a.m. training skate.
"The 20-pound weights we put on her shoulders keep Yu-Na's legs strong and allow her to explode into her jumps," he said. "Why would we ever take them off? She can have this one day to have fun with media interviews and her corporate endorsement obligations, but then it's back on the ice. The world championships are only a few weeks away. If she loses there, that means she is not a true champion. There will be a lot of pressure on her to back up this performance."
Kim says she realizes how important practice is.
"If I don't practice, something terrible could happen," she said. "Like, I could kick my leg up in the air, and my skate blade could catch my neck, slicing it open so I bleed out and die on the ice within seconds, ending everything. Right? Do you think that's something that could happen? I must practice and see."