Monday, February 22, 2010

Kim arrives inspired by Lysacek's gold

Yu-Na Kim popped a triple flip into a single at this morning's practice.

"But only one," her coach, Brian Orser, was quick to say.

The world champion has struggled with her flip all season. During her free skate at Trophee Eric Bompard, she skated through the element, although that didn't prevent her from setting a new world record score at the event.

At Skate America, she tried and missed the jump, losing the free skate to U.S. champion Rachael Flatt. And at December's Grand Prix Final, a popped flip caused her to lose the short program to Japan's Miki Ando.

Orser has his own sad history with the triple flip. It may have cost him Olympic gold in 1988, when the Canadian lost the legendary "Battle of the Brians" to Brian Boitano, partly because he turned out of the landing of the jump.

Here, Orser doesn't think the flip will make the difference.

"She's looked good," he said. "That element hasn't been an issue at all, not for the last six weeks since the Grand Prix Final.

"Every once in a while, something happens with it. That's all right with me. I don't want to do too well, all the time. That's when something happens. With all the training we've done, we've made sure that element is strong."

Kim has already had some good news: at the draw today, she selected to skate 23rd, right after longtime rival Mao Asada of Japan. "I was hoping not to skate last, so I'm really happy about the draw," she told reporters in the mixed zone.

Instead, Ando has that honor.

The skater's team arrived on Feb. 19th, and she had two practices yesterday, one at the Pacific Coliseum and the other at the training rink.

"Yesterday the ice felt a bit weird to me, but today it was okay," Kim said. "I just tried to train hard like I do in Toronto. I still have a few days until the short program, so overall it was a good practice today."

With the exception of the one popped flip, Kim is right; her triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and other jumps looked strong.

Orser has made no changes to either of Kim's David Wilson-choreographed programs, a short to selections from James Bond movies and a free skate to Gershwin's "Concerto in F."

"All we've done is work to make them faster, better and stronger," he said.

Otherwise, most of his job has revolved around shielding his skater from dealing with too much press, too soon. That's why he trained Kim at their home base, the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, for as long as possible.

"It was somewhat surreal, being in Toronto the first week of the Games," Orser said. "We had the skating on [the television], and as she skated by she couldn't help but see the venue and the competition.

"We watched the men's short program and the men's long from far away, which was good. We made the right decision."

A heavy favorite for gold in Vancouver, Kim is thought of as near-royalty in her home country of South Korea, where the press refers to her reverentially as "Queen Yu-Na." Some think the expectations of her countrymen could upset her competitive equilibrium, but Orser doesn't agree.

"The 'Queen Yu-Na' phenomenon, that's been a gradual process," he said. "It's built over the last four years, ever since the last Olympics. It has been beneficial for her to be in Toronto training. It's comfortable, and there's still a huge Korean community there.

"You know, one thing I've learned, maybe through my own career: you don't guard against pressure, you have to face it head on. I didn't tell her, 'Pretend this is just another competition.' We all know it isn't. She's ready."

Like other coaches today, Orser broke the news to Kim of the sudden death of Therese Rochette, Canadian champion Joannie Rochette's 55-year-old mother.

"I told her right away, and she was shocked," he said. "She feels bad for Joannie, and she feels bad for the family.

"Yu-Na has such a tight bond with her own mother; her mom is at every practice, part of very decision. I am sure she will be affected by it. All the women in the competition will be affected by it."

Kim is expected to be most challenged Ando, the 2007 world champion who won bronze last season, and Asada, the 2008 world champion who plans to perform triple Axels in both her short program and free skate here.

Fans have flamed the flames of the rivalry on message boards and YouTube, and many think historic political and sports rivalries between Korea and Japan have fueled the often nasty fire.

"Oh, Yu-Na is aware of it, but she doesn't bother with the political issues, she bothers with competitive issues," Orser said.

"I don't think she thinks of it in terms of politics or history; I think she sees the Korea v. Japan rivalry as a skating rivalry, similar to what I had with Boitano. She's competing and skating because she loves it. She's a true competitor."

Shortly before they left for Vancouver, Kim watched Evan Lysacek win gold with a controlled, yet passionate performance that held nothing back. The coach thinks that's what his own skater will do here.

"I'm happy she saw Evan," he said. "I remember at the '84 [Lake Placid] Games, when I watched Kitty [Carruthers] and Peter [Carruthers] skate out and take control of the ice. I said, 'I want to be just like that when I start,' and I was.

"I believe Yu-Na will, too; that's what the Olympics are about. I want her to be inspired. There's not a lot of strategy to winning the Olympics. You need to skate flat out. Both Evan and Yu-Na came here as world champions, and he rose to the occasion. That gave her strength and comfort."

No comments: