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Yu-Na Korea's Queen on Ice

() - February 23, 2010 - 12:00am

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Football, baseball and speedskating are passions in South Korea. Kim Yu-Na is an obsession.

The 19-year-old Kim, dubbed “Queen Yu-Na” by her adoring public, has raised the appetite for figure skating in her nation from invisible to insatiable. She’s mobbed everywhere she goes back home, so much so that Kim rarely appears in public in South Korea without bodyguards.

She trains in Toronto with coach Brian Orser, the two-time Olympic silver medalist, partly because working full-time in her homeland had become distracting, even dangerous. Since joining Orser in Canada, Kim has soared as a competitor and as a performer, capped by her first world championship in March 2009.

“He gives me confidence,” Kim says, “and he teaches me many things about skating that help me.”

But a coach can only do so much, and Orser has no control over the frenzy that follows Kim in South Korea. He recognizes the effect it can have on an athlete, and is impressed how she has handled being in such a blinding spotlight.

“They’ve embraced her and they love her and she’s very gracious about it,” Orser says. “The audience seems to be captivated by her style, grace and athleticism. She’s beautiful and she’s everything you think of in figure skating. And she’s managed to be a very strong competitor.

“She has great choreography and it seems to come from her soul. She’s able to raise the bar and she has a passion for skating that seems to come across, and it’s genuine.”

Kim rarely comments on the hysteria her every move – on and off the ice – causes in her country.

“She’s a superstar in that country, a superstar. And if she wins the Olympics, she’ll be a Godzillionaire,” says Frank Carroll, who has coached his share of champions, including Vancouver gold medalist Evan Lysacek. (AP)

BRIAN ORSER BRITISH COLUMBIA EVAN LYSACEK FRANK CARROLL KIM KIM YU-NA ORSER QUEEN YU-NA SOUTH KOREA
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