By Nancy Armour
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — Queen Yu-na, indeed!
Kim Yu-na won the title at the World Figure Skating Championships on Mar. 28, setting off celebrations from Southern California to South Korea. Already treated like royalty at home — her nickname is Queen Yu-na and she wears tiny, sparkling crowns in her ears — her popularity is sure to grow now that she’s given South Korea its first world title.
“I’m sure the whole globe shook,” said Kim’s coach, two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser. “The whole country of Korea must be elated.”
Kim won in record fashion, too. Her 207.71 points were the highest scored under figure skating’s current judging system, shattering the old mark by eight points. She was more than 16 points ahead of Joannie Rochette. Main rival Mao Asada was almost 20 points behind, falling to fourth place.
When she saw the scores, Kim closed her eyes and shook her head. She then stood up, beaming, and waved to the cheering crowd. She cried as the South Korean anthem played.
“Always when I heard the anthem (before), I got teary and it got to the verge of crying. But I always kept it in,” she said. “Today, because it was a dream come true, I couldn’t hold it in.”
Rochette won the silver, Canada’s first medal at the world championships since Liz Manley won the silver in 1988. Miki Ando, the 2007 world champion from Japan, was third.
Asada tumbled off the medals podium a year after winning the title. She’ll have to console herself with trying two triple axels, a first by a woman at this event. She fell on her second attempt.
“I was thinking about being a champion again, but instead of thinking about that, I needed to have concentrated on completing my elements,” said Asada, who had clearly been crying.
Rachael Flatt finished fifth and Alissa Czisny was 11th, meaning the United States can send only two women to the Vancouver Olympics. It’s only the second time since 1924 that the Americans have failed to earn the maximum three spots. The first time was in 1994.
Kim and Asada’s rivalry is the best thing going in skating these days, and it has made both of them superstars in their own countries. They’ve been at it since juniors, trading one major title after another. Asada won the world title last year and the Grand Prix final this season. Kim responded with a victory at Four Continents.
But Kim was in a class of her own.
“I like it when the competing skaters do really well. I think she steps up to that,” Orser said. “I know next year Mao has to be in top shape, but it is nice to win whenever you win. You take it any time.” ♦
Editor’s note: Even before she won her world championship title, Kim Yu-na was more popular than South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.