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Kim Yu-na says ready for world champs

April 22, 2011 - 18:45 By 남숙현
South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na said Friday she’s well prepared to pursue her second world title in Russia next week after an extra month of training on home ice.

“I hope I can compete as well as I’ve done in my practices,”

Kim told reporters at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, before departing for Moscow, the venue for this year’s World Figure Skating Championships.

“The key is not to get too nervous beforehand. As long as I don’t put myself under too much pressure, there should be no problem,” the 20-year-old added.

This year’s world championships, organized by the International Skating Union (ISU), will take place from April 24-May 1 in the Russian capital. The event had been scheduled for March 20-27 in Tokyo, but was postponed and relocated after a devastating earthquake hit Japan earlier in March.

Kim, the reigning Olympic gold medalist and the 2009 world champion, had been scheduled to land in Tokyo on March 20. Instead, Kim, who trains in Los Angeles, spent last month in Seoul with her American coach Peter Oppegard.

Kim said the extra month at home helped her prepare for the championships better, both mentally and physically.

“To be honest, about two weeks before Tokyo, I got so nervous,”

Kim said. “I didn’t think I’d ever been so wound up before a competition. But that one month here helped me a great deal. I felt lucky to have had that additional time to put the finishing touches on my preparations.”
Figure skating champion Kim Yu-na and her American coach Peter Oppegard wave to the crowd at Incheon International Airport on Friday. (Yonhap News)

This will be Kim’s first competitive event since the previous world championships in Torino, Italy, in March 2010. She finished second behind Mao Asada of Japan then.

In winning the gold medal at last year’s Vancouver Winter Olympics, Kim set world records in the short program (78.50), free skating (150.06) and total points (228.56). She said she isn’t far off from her Olympic form.

“I’d expected it would be difficult to build myself up to the level I’d wanted after the long break, but I had no problems at all,” Kim said. “I know it’s been more than a year since my last event, but I haven’t really given it much thought because I am well prepared.”

Oppegard, who started coaching Kim last October, also said he and Kim tried to make most of the time they had here.

“We built up our training slowly and deliberately,” he said.

“We made sure that techniques were very good and built on that on a daily basis. I actually think that with the games moving to Russia and the extra month prepared her even more for the competition.”

Oppegard, a former Olympic bronze medalist in pairs, called Kim’s preparation “a beautiful thing to watch.”

“When you think that she’s raised the level of competition, she digs down to find more and she becomes better with each day,” he said.

Kim will perform her short program to the ballet “Giselle” and her free skating to “Homage to Korea,” a compilation of traditional Korean music. Oppegard said since Kim hasn’t yet revealed these routines at any competition, she could bring “the surprise element” to the championships.

“I think she can compete well against anybody that shows up,” the coach added.

Oppegard said he and his prized pupil “don’t spend a lot of time looking at the competition.” Kim also said she hasn’t had time to worry about other contenders, namely Mao Asada of Japan, the defending world champion.

“I am focused only on myself,” Kim said. “As always, the most important thing for me is to perform so that I can be satisfied with myself.”

The short program is set to start at 6:30 p.m. (Seoul time) on April 29, and free skating will begin at 6:30 p.m. the following day. (Yonhap News)