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Legend in the making

Thu., Feb. 25, 2010

South Korea’s Kim virtually shoo-in for Olympic gold medal

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – One Olympic singles champion, Robin Cousins, says Kim Yu-na has the “it factor.”

Another, Scott Hamilton, calls her a gift to the sport “from some other place.”

A rival’s coach, Frank Carroll, marvels at her speed.

One of the sport’s legendary skaters, Michelle Kwan, says Kim is “what the judges are looking for, when it comes to jump quality, spin quality and edges.”

All agree there is no way Kim will lose the Olympic gold medal in tonight’s long program if the 19-year-old South Korean skates the way she did in winning Tuesday’s short program.

“Who is going to challenge her?” Hamilton asks, the question rhetorical. “No one is going to beat her. She is going to have to beat herself.”

Kim has such a margin in overall quality – and score – over the rest of the field, including short program runner-up Mao Asada of Japan, that she likely can get away with one major mistake and still wind up with gold.

After all, Asada delivered a short program that was both historic and brilliant and wound up 4.72 points behind Kim.

The triple axel, with its forward takeoff and 31/2 revolutions in the air, is the most difficult jump women skaters attempt. In just a few seconds, Asada became both the first to do it and land it during an Olympic short program, and the first to do it as part of a jump combination, followed by a double toe loop, in any Olympic program.

“It was so impressive to see a triple axel/double toe and know that’s not good enough to win the short program,” said Kwan, two-time Olympic medalist and five-time world champion.

Impressive or depressing to everyone else?

“What might be going through Mao’s head is she has nothing to lose,” Kwan said.

Asada already planned to go for broke by trying two triple axels in the 41/2-minute long program. Even that won’t be enough to beat a flawless Kim.

“Yu-na is like Seabiscuit, a champion who found a way of breaking others’ will,” Hamilton said.

Kim has total command of all the elements necessary to get high scores.

As in the short program, they will skate back-to-back in the final group of six, with Kim preceding Asada this time.

Canada’s Joannie Rochette, Japan’s Miki Ando and the two U.S. skaters, Rachael Flatt, 17, and Mirai Nagasu, 16, also are in the last group.

Kim is trying to become the first South Korean to win any figure skating medal, let alone gold. In the short program, she had to deal with not only that but the sudden pressure of having Asada bring down the house immediately before Kim skated.

It made no difference.

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