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“I don’t know why I cried. This is the first time,” the new Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-Na told reporters after stepping off the rink. But everyone present at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum Arena understood why, after witnessing one of the greatest performances and most inspirational evenings in Olympic Winter Games history.
The 19-year-old Korean, dancing to Gershwin’s Concerto in G, delivered a mesmerising show of elegance and athleticism. She landed an opening triple lutz-triple toe combination, followed by a perfect triple flip and double axel-double toe-double loop, but just as dazzling as her huge jumps were the breathtaking grace, precision and artistry of the performance.
It earned her a colossal 150.06 points in her free programme, for a world record score of 228.56. Kim’s artistry was so exceptional that Japan’s Mao Asada was more than 23 points behind in second despite landing two triple Axels.
“She didn’t miss a step,” said Kim’s Canadian coach Brian Orser, himself a former Olympic medallist. “She was skating with her heart. I just wanted her to have an Olympic moment. I wanted it to be Olympic and not cautious, not hold back, just go out and embrace the space, and the Olympic Games.”
The bronze medal was won by Canada’s Joannie Rochette, who, following her courageous skate in the short programme, had the strength to turn in another remarkable performance just four days after the death of her mother, earning standing ovations from the crowd both before and after her skate. After she had finished, the 24-year-old from Quebec put her hands together and blew a kiss towards the skies.
“I feel proud and the result did not matter. It was a lifetime project for me and my mom, and we achieved that,” she said, adding: “She was always proud of me. She was my biggest fan, my best friend. She was with me every step of the way.”
Small wonder that on such an emotionally-charged night, the once-impassive Kim should be moved to tears.
“Three times,” answered Kim, asked how many times she had cried since winning the gold. “After my performance was over and then on the podium. [Joannie Rochette] started crying, and I started crying right with her.”
Find out more about Yuna Kim: http://www.olympic.org/yuna-kim