Career Highlights: 2010 Olympic champion, 2009 world champion, 2006 world junior champion
Short Program: selections from James Bond films
Free Skate: Piano Concerto in F Major by George Gershwin
The overwhelming favorite for the Olympic gold medal, Kim Yu-Na has been head and shoulders over the competition this season. She's had some struggles with her triple flip, showing that she is, after all, human. But even with those struggles, she still managed to dominate the field and win every event she entered. Including the Olympics -- with a record-breaking score.
Looking back: 2009
Kim won her first world title in record-breaking fashion, becoming the first woman to break the 200-point barrier. She was so far ahead of the field that even though she didn't receive any credit for her final spin, she still bested second-place finisher Joannie Rochette of Canada by more than 16 points. Reduced to tears while receiving her gold medal, Kim says that at that moment, "all of my dreams came true."
The new ‘Brian-Brian'
Japan's Mao Asada and Kim have been competing against each other since their junior days, trading titles in an intense yet friendly rivalry. Kim's coach, Canadian Brian Orser, knows all about rivalries: the men's competition at the 1988 Winter Games was billed as the 'Battle of the Brians' - Orser versus American Brian Boitano. In Calgary and under immense pressure of competing in his home country, Orser, then the reigning world champion, finished second to Boitano in one of the closest finishes in Olympic history. It took him 10 years to sit down and watch a tape of his performance.
As Orser did 20 years ago, Kim will enter Vancouver as world champion and face a familiar foe in Asada. "He really knows what I feel in the competitions because there was Brian-Brian, and I am doing that now," Kim says. "He understands how I feel and he understands everything."
Coming to Canada
Even as an eight-year-old, Kim spent her summers training abroad because there was no ice available for figure skaters in South Korea. She remembers training at Michelle Kwan's rink in Southern California and running into Kwan in the bathroom. "She had short hair," Kim recalls. "I was shy so I ran away." In 2006 she went to work with choreographer David Wilson in Toronto and decided that Canada was the place she wanted to train. Kim trains under Orser and alongside rising American Adam Rippon, who has become a good friend.
Hailed as a national treasure, Kim is so well known and recognized that she employs two full-time bodyguards when traveling in South Korea. "Everyone recognizes me, it sometimes is strange and a little uncomfortable for my family," Kim says. Orser likens it to being a rock star. "It's hundreds of photographers, mayhem, and incredibly dedicated fans," he explains. "They mail me presents all the time. The outpouring of love and worship that she has is really astounding." In 2009, Forbes Korea named her the No. 1 celebrity in South Korea based on professionalism, popularity, income and influence. (Oprah Winfrey tops the U.S. list.) In 2008, a Korea Times survey named Kim as Person of the Year over runners-up U.S. President Barack Obama, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak.
Face for a nation
According to the Korea Times, Kim has signed contracts worth more than $2.6 million. In South Korea, Kim is everywhere, smiling down from signs on buses and billboards in advertisements for Hyundai cars, milk, appliances, tissues and cosmetics. Samsung named a cell phone model (the "Yu-Na Haptic") after the tech-savvy star, who has been (unofficially) credited with spurring Twitter's popularity in South Korea - Kim has nearly 50,000 eager followers. Among other Kim products: a two-CD compilation of all of Kim's music titled "Fairy of the Ice," and a 245-page book authored by Kim's mother.
A second career?
Kim is a singer, confident enough in herself to sing in several of her television commercials and during ice shows. "It's a huge bonus because you don't have to explain phrasing to her," says her choreographer David Wilson. "I can just show her and with a little bit of talking about the nuances and the layers, she gets it. And that's because she has the heart of an artist." Kim credits Wilson with helping her out of her shell. "I was very shy before David, and I was not that good [with] expression or with public," she says. "I got better with David because he has the talent to grasp something from each athlete to express herself."