Yuna Kim’s evolving Olympic role

Yuna Kim

Yuna Kim captivated audiences when she became the 2010 Olympic champion in Vancouver. It was in 2010 that she became the first South Korean to win a medal in figure skating.

After the Vancouver Games, Kim acted as a bid ambassador for the PyeongChang Olympics, while the city was angling for the chance to host the 2018 event. She practiced English for weeks leading up to the presentation in front of the International Olympic Committee panel. The IOC selected PyeongChang in 2011, giving the city time to prepare their venues and facilities. Many in the press contributed PyeongChang’s victory to Kim, who is a South Korean national treasure, they said.

Then in 2014, looking to become only the third ladies figure skater to defend her gold medal, the legend earned a silver medal behind Russian Adelina Sotnikova in Sochi.

Soon after Sochi, Kim retired – but she did not stay away from the Olympic spotlight. In November 2014, she built on her role as bid ambassador when she was named an official ambassador for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

“I remember the moment when PyeongChang was announced as the Host City of the Olympic Games,” she said to media. “For the success of the PyeongChang Olympic Games, I will work hard to attract attention and bring publicity to the event and as a former skater, to create an environment where athletes can give their best performances.”

Part of her role as ambassador included unveiling the Olympic torch on the One Year Out date in 2017. She also awarded the ladies medals at the 2017 Four Continents Championships, which acted as the test event for the Games in PyeongChang.

Since Kim has been off the competitive ice, a new skater has taken up the residence as the sport’s best, complete with record-breaking performances: Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva.

Kim set a total points record of 228.56 at the 2010 Olympics; Medvedeva posted 229.71 to top that record at the 2017 European Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Medvedeva topped her own record a few months later at the world championships, totaling 233.41 points.

Medvedeva also holds records for the top short program score recorded: 79.21 points at the December 2016 Grand Prix Final, formerly held by the now-retired Mao Asada, of Japan, the Vancouver silver medalist. At the same European championships, Medvedeva improved upon her own record free program score: 150.79 points. Medvedeva bettered herself again at the world championships a few months later, tallying 154.40 points.

Up-and-coming ladies skater Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan debuted a new dress at the same world championships, which drew many comparisons to Kim’s free skate dress from Vancouver.



Later, Tursynbaeva clarified to media that it was not intentionally meant to mimic Kim’s dress. “Together with the coach we decided to change the costume for free skate. Some people say that it is similar to Yuna Kim’s dress, but it was not supposed to be like that and I like this costume very much.”

The U.S.’ figure skating Olympic hopefuls also feel the connection to Kim. Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. national champion, told NBC Olympics that her favorite Olympic memory was watching Kim win gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

It seems like a rite of passage for many of the U.S. skaters who were in the same place at the same time with Kim: They love to photos of themselves with Kim on social media.

“Yuna Kim has been one of my all-time favorite skaters,” Gold said to NBC Olympics. “I have been watching videos of her skating since 2009, before she won in Vancouver. She was absolutely one of the best jumpers our sport has ever seen and an incredible role model. She was always, and still is, gracious and kind.”

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