Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Korea breaks the ice

Yu-na Kim was second at the 2005 Junior Worlds
In the shadow of Japan in almost every way, Korea seems to have an inferiority complex when it comes to its cousin across the sea--my Korean ESL students express it in a thousand twisted little ways every day, with a blend of hostility and what I've come to think of as a "trademark" sardonic sense of humor. None of them will know who Yu-na Kim is because most are the kind of apathetic mainstream dog-paddlers who only know their country's (and America's) MEGAstars, but the 15-year-old figure skater just made an important first stab at becoming Korea's next cultural hero by beating reigning Junior world champion Mao Asada in the short program at the 2006 Junior World Championships in Slovenia. With another Kim in the top ten (no relation), Korea is already well on its way to challenging Japan's new skating "dynasty," and start one of its own. Of course, the U.S. and its constantly impressive stable of sleek, spunky skaters (The American girls are more like racehorses than princesses, don't you think?) is never far behind, and could surge ahead again at any time, with Christine Zukowski and Alisa Czisny solidly holding third and fourth as they head into Thursday's free skate. Will Mao go for that history-making quad flip? Or maybe a loop? Kim's jumping abilities aren't as freakish as Asada's, but her other scores, all consistently higher than Mao's, describe a level of skating I can't wait to see when she finally hits TV. What havoc will be wreaked when these new-line teen terrors are set loose on the senior circuit ice!

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