Yuna fulfills the dream of a nation
In the late 80s, I discovered the world of Saturday afternoon figure skating. I was immediately hooked and waited with bated breath for the 1988 Calgary Olympics to witness the “Battle of the Brians and the Carmens.” I can still vividly recall my favorite male Olympic skating performance (by a mile) from Brian Boitano, turning into Napoleon for his long program.
I’ve had my favorites throughout the years, but no one has ever come close to my true love, Michelle Kwan. After debuting as a jumper, she quickly blossomed into a artistic genius and I fell in love with her skating. I was devastated when she didn’t fulfill her expectations at the Olympics. (I still get upset whenever I see Tara Lipinski or Sarah Hughes. I’m a total sore loser.)
Kim Yuna is the first skater since Michelle to give me goosebumps. There are plenty of skaters whom I’ve liked: I marveled at Sasha Cohen’s perfect stretch and lines, and appreciated the beauty of Salé and Pelletier. But watching Yuna skate transports me to different world. As the Vancouver Olympics approached, I found myself pulling for Yuna as I did for Michelle over 10 years ago and got butterflies in my stomach every time I thought about the competition.
After 20 years of fandom, I feel like my dreams were fulfilled tonight seeing Yuna win the gold medal with a spectacular performance. She looked calm but resolute and her blue outfit with the beautiful sequined back illuminated a sense of royalty. With a perfectly suited long program, she was effervescent as she flitted and floated across the ice to Gershwin’s Concerto. At 19, I thought her James Bond program was a bit to sexy for her to pull off with total believability and loved that her long program was created to embrace her youth and grace.
She set records in both the short and free to post a total score over 228, obliterating the 210 she set earlier this season. Her free skate of 150 was almost 20 points better than Mao and Joannie. And even with Mao Asado’s 2 triple axels, she couldn’t compete with Yuna in the technical department as the gold medalist scored a whopping 12 points on her triple/triple combo. (No other skater even broke a 10 on their combo jumps.) She was nothing short of exquisite.
Sidenote: Even though the old scoring system was tainted and imperfect, I miss seeing the faces of skaters as they see their scores, especially the surprise and excitement of seeing a perfect 6. I think we would have seen quite a few 6’s from Yuna’s performance if it had been under the old system.
Even more exciting is that she has the capacity to get better. Her artistry will only develop as she matures and develops the depth and experience to infuse intensity into her programs. Maybe in a few years she can attempt her own Bolero routine to rival Torvill and Dean. Something that Michelle couldn’t quite accomplish in her attempt. After this Olympics, I’m sure Christopher Dean would be more than happy to choreograph her routine.
Besides Yuna, the rest of the skaters had stellar performances, making the ladies competition super enjoyable. Mao Asada made Olympic history with her triple axels and Joannie Rochette was stunning as she channeled her tragedy into triumph. The two American ladies were also solid and Mirai Nagasu even received the second highest execution scores in the free skate, only behind Yuna. Even the other Korean skater, Kwak Min Jung, was impressive and might cute with her braces filled smile. (Watch her free skate here.) I can’t wait for the exhibition skating on Saturday.
Even though she just skated my favorite female Olympic performance, it’ll take awhile before Yuna can overtake the skater of my heart. Here’s one of my favorite performances of all time: Michelle skating to East of Eden.