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‘Figure Queen’ Kim Yuna successfully finished her first competition and expressed her goal of earning at least two entries at the Sochi Olympics. “I worried a lot that I might make unexpected mistakes at the competition because I hadn’t competed in a while. Of course I made mistakes but I performed my programs better than I expected. So I’m rather relived,” said Kim at the press conference held at the Inchon International Airport.
“I will train hard to earn at least two entries to the Olympics. I am concerned more about earning more than two spots so I can go to the Olympics with a fellow Korean skater, rather than aiming for gold,” answered Kim. “I think that the NRW Trophy was a good start. Now I will concentrate on elements that need improvement and do my best to maintain good health for the following competitions,” said Kim.
Kim won gold at the NRW Trophy that was held at the Eissportzenturm in Dortmund, Germany. She scored a total of 201.61 points; 129.34 for her free skate and 72.27 in the short. Her score is the highest score of the season in ladies singles.
The following is Kim’s question and answer session.
Q: How do you feel right now?
Kim: I feel good that I was able to achieve my goal of earning the required minimum technical points (for Worlds) and that I got through the competition without encountering any major problems. I am aware that a lot of people rooted for me and supported me. I don’t know if I lived up to their expectations but I am happy and thankful that my hard training lead to good results.
Q: What do you need to work on for the World Championships?
Kim: Figure skating rules change each year. I was worried the most about the changes in spin rules. It has become more difficult to get high level spins. In order to keep up with the rule changes, new spins that I had not done before were incorporated in my new programs. As a result, my spins are a bit rusty and I was rather unsure of myself at the competition. I think this affected me and my spins weren’t perfect at the competition.
There weren’t any big problems with the jumps but after I checked the protocol after the competition, I found that I had gotten a level 1 on a spin. Of course the goal was to get a level 4 so when I saw that it was a level 1 and not even level 3, it caught my attention. There can be many different reasons in such cases. One, the elements of the spin does not meet the required levels, or two, there were problems in the actual execution. These little details may seem minor but they add up and play a big factor in the final score. So I need to focus on not missing the details in each and every element. Since the NRW Trophy was my first competition I can work on problems based on the feedback I received. In a way, it helped me find out what elements I need to work on.
Q: Wasn’t it physically difficult because of your long hiatus?
Kim: I took a break from competition for 20 months and even though I skated in shows it’s not the same thing as competing. It had been a long time since I skated at an actual competition and because the level of training had become much light during my hiatus, I was worried the most about my stamina. As I mentioned a few times before, the focus of my training was brining my stamina up to competition level. This made training physically draining and difficult. But because I was much more light-hearted compared to prior to the Vancouver Olympics, training was much enjoyable and I was able to laugh through it even though it was exhausting.
I was nervous at the competition, much more than I anticipated, because I had been away from competitive ice. The nerves made me tenser and I found myself out of breath at the actual competition. However, thanks to the hard training, I was able to perform without any huge mistakes.
Q: You will be skating at the Korean Nationals in January. This will be the first time you will be skating your new programs in front of your Korean fans. How do you feel?
Kim: I think that the NRW Trophy was a good start. Now I will concentrate on elements that need improvement and do my best to maintain good health for the following competitions. I think being healthy is the most important. Don’t get sick and go to competitions healthy. It’s been a long time since I competed in Korea and I goal is, as always, to do my best.
Q: How would you compare your performance at the NRW Trophy with your run-throughs during training?
Kim: Well, because the short program is physically less straining than the long, I had a high rate of clean run-throughs in the short. I think that all the hard training helped me skate well even though I was really nervous. The free program started off well but I made a few mistakes in the second half. It was not because I was physically drained but rather a loss of concentration. After my first mistake (singling the double axel) I stumbled on jumps that I usually regarded as easy (singling the planned double toe loop- double loop). The jump I fell on was because I lost concentration, not steam.
Q: What will be your focus point in your training up until Worlds in March?
Kim: I think I will be concentrating on the details. I also need to work on perfecting my spins and check the elements so that I can get level 4 on my spins. I will check the elements that need improvement based on the feedback I received in NRW. Enhancing the consistency of technical elements and improving the choreography and flow of the programs have always been goals that I held throughout a skating season. Also, even though my current endurance is enough to skate though my programs, enhancing my stamina will enable me to perform my programs with more ease so I will focus on this as well.
Q: Do you feel that you made the right choice in coming back to competition?
Kim: I think the feeling was closer to “whew”; relief. I was worried that I might make unexpected mistakes at the competition because no matter how hard you train, things happen. The fact that I had not competed for a while didn’t help matters at all. As I was preparing for this season, I was worried that once I stood on the ice, the psychological burden would return. However, I found out that I was able to skate with a lighter heart compared to the past. I am at more ease, psychologically. The fear I felt at competitions has dropped dramatically so I think this will help me get though the tough training that is waiting for me more easily.
Q: How would you compare the current season’s ladies with the ladies of the past season?
Kim: I noticed that lot of the skaters that I once competed against are now absent from the ice. There are a lot of new faces. It wasn’t intentional, during my time away from competitive ice I grew less interested in the competitions because I wasn’t competing myself. Now that I have returned, I have to compete in such competitions and I guess I will be seeing the new skaters. However, I plan to focus on my own performance rather than fixating on other skater’s performances, like I have always done. I find myself less distracted by other skater’s themselves or their results compared to the past. I think that if each skater concentrates on their own performances, good results will follow.
Q: What are your goals for the World Championships?
Kim: This season’s Worlds will determine the amount of allotted spots for each country at the Olympics. At the Vancouver Olympics I participated with fellow skater, Kwak Min-Jeong. I want to skate well at Worlds so that I can earn at least two spots at the Olympics. I would like to give young Korean skaters the opportunity to experience the Games. I will do my best, but I will skate with a far lighter heart because I am concerned more about earning spots for Korea, rather than aiming for gold.
(The International Skating Federation(ISU) determines allotted places at the Olympics depending on the results of the World Championships held the previous year. If a skater places within 24th place, the country wins one spot. If the skater places within 10th place, two spots. If the skater places within the top two, three spots are given.)
Olympic champion Kim Yu-na completed her triumphant return to figure skating competition on Sunday by winning the NRW Trophy in Dortmund, Germany with the season's best total score.
Kim overcame one fall in an otherwise assured free skate routine to end her 19-month sabbatical with 201.61 points, including the 72.27 she was awarded for the season's best short program on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Kim was competing in the second-tier competition to secure a place at next year's world championships.
"I'm happy that I could reach my goal today," said Kim, who needed just 28 points from the short program and 48 from the free skate to ensure her participation in London, Ontario, Canada.
"At the beginning of the program my spins were going well but I made one mistake. Afterward I felt shaky but I persevered to the end. I was actually surprised at the score I received. That was unexpected. I think I did my best, the best I could, even though I don't feel I've shown all I can do. But overall I'm satisfied with the result today."
Xenia Makarova of Russia was second with 159.01 points, while Sweden's Viktoria Helgesson finished third at 158.93.
Mao Asada of Japan reached the season's previous best of 196.80 when she won the Grand Prix Final on Saturday in Sochi, Russia.
"If we do end up in the same competition, I think we will each just focus on our own choreography and skating," Kim said when asked about her biggest rival.
Kim, known as "Queen Yu-na" in her South Korean homeland where she enjoys rock star status, hadn't competed since the world championships in Moscow in April 2011, creating unprecedented demand for tickets to see her return at the International Skating Union-sanctioned competition.
The modest 200-capacity venue sold out in two hours, security was drafted in for the first time in six years of the event, and one woman even brought along her poodle.
With indelible poise and sublime grace, Kim started her routine to music from Les Miserables, launching herself fearlessly into jumps and landing with implausible softness.
She landed six triple jumps, a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and four more triple jumps. But she fell on a double toe loop after a lapse in concentration and acknowledged that the rest of her routine was affected despite earning 129.34 points, 22 in front of Japan's Satsuki Muramoto and 29.88 more than Makarova, who placed sixth in the free skate.
"I was caught off-guard because I assumed it was an easy jump," said Kim, who holds world records in the short program (78.50) free skate (150.06) and combined total (228.56) from the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
"I will focus on just this jump next time. Since this is only a mistake in the first competition [since returning] I think if I focus on it I can improve and not make any mistakes."
Kim sat out the 2011-12 season to mull over her future and announced in July she would return this year and retire after the 2014 Sochi Games.
"After this I'm going to return to Korea and focus on the Korean national championship, preparing for that. Since entry to the Olympics depends on it, I'm going to prepare very hard for it, not just for me but so all the other young skaters in Korea can also gain entry to the Olympics," Kim said.
"About Sochi, it's not too far away, but this season only just started so I'm going to focus on the season first and think about that later."
Kim reunited with two of her childhood coaches, Shin Hye-sook and Ryu Jong-hyun in October, after parting ways with Peter Oppegard, her American coach of two years. She still works with Canadian choreographer David Wilson.