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Olympic Outlook: Yu-na Kim

South Korea's Yu-na Kim is the undeniable gold medal favorite in the ladies competition in Vancouver.  She has a pristine technique and superb program components.  She has the potential to break yet more records at the competition.  She also has a confident triple/triple combination that she has been landing in both the short program and free skate. Kim is coached by Canadian Brian Orser.

Kim won every competition she entered in the 2005-06 junior season, including the junior worlds.  She then moved up to seniors and made an impact right from the start, winning the first of her three Grand Prix Finals in the 2006-07 season.  She earned a bronze at the world championships.

Kim would have a nearly identical season the next year (but throw in an additional Grand Prix event victory to boot).  She received the bronze again at the world championships that year (2008), where Asada was the true story.  In the 2008-09 Grand Prix season, Kim started to look truly unbeatable, until her rivalry with Asada took the headlines again at the Grand Prix Final, where Kim came in only second to Asada and her two free skate triple axels. But Kim would win out in the end, earning her first world championship title at the worlds in Los Angeles.

Kim has had a perfect season thus far, winning her two Grand Prix events and her Grand Prix Final.  However, things haven't looked as perfect as they may seem by those victories.  Overall, Kim oddly enough does not usually skate perfectly clean.  This season, for instance, she completely blew off a triple flip attempt in her otherwise amazing Trophee Eric Bompard free skate.  Clean skate or not, it looked very odd to not do that jump.  Her Skate America free skate, while placing second in the competition, was a disaster for her, and included a fall and several nasty landings.  The triple flip has been her nemesis this season.  At the Grand Prix Final short program, Kim popped her flip.  And she had a messy combo in the free skate. 

I can see why Kim scores so high even when she is imperfect...but I would really like to see her skate clean at the Olympics.  She has been plagued by nerves this season, so hopefully they will be under control in Vancouver.  Canada is Kim's second home; she trains there with Orser.

Quick Take

The Programs:  Kim's 007 short program is an absolute wonder.  It's engaging, sexy, and technically powerful.  Her Gershwin free skate is a bit less exciting, and some have argued it does not have the "wow" factor of other Kim skates.  Hopefully she will turn on the charm and sell it at the Olympics.

Latest Performance:  A not-good short program effort at the Grand Prix Final actually turned the event into a competition with Miki Ando.  Kim skated well enough to win the free skate, though. 

Strengths:  Everything.  Even the things she is not the best in the world at, she is strong on.

Weaknesses:  It appears that nerves are getting the better of her, and there is no grander stage than the Olympics.  I am also convinced that no country is putting as much pressure on their skater as Korea puts on Kim.  She is such a celebrity there, and the country's figure skating hopes are resting on her.

It gives me the creeps when:  She gets scared out there!  She, of all people, has the basic foundation to draw on that should provide her with enough confidence not to worry.

I think it's awesome when:  She does that short program.  If she doesn't win herself a million new fans with that one performance, I'll be surprised.

Outlook:  If Kim does not win the Olympic gold medal, it will mean that she has either imploded with nerves or we will have had ourselves one amazing competition, with other skaters stepping up in ways they have not thus far this season.  Hopefully the former does not happen!  Kim is such a special skater, so rare in her combination of technical skill and proficiency and artistry and skills, that she will hopefully just put on an awesome show for all of the Olympic viewers.