Women’s figure skating has long been a rivalry between two competitors, but Kim Yu-na broke that trend two years ago and is the undisputed queen of the sport.
With the World Figure Skating Championship to start on March 3 in Tokyo, Kim’s competitors are preparing to end her stranglehold on the world’s top ranking.
In the early 2000s, Michelle Kwan of the U.S. and Irina Slutskaya of Russia were the contestants to the figure skating throne. Following a short absence of strong talent, another rivalry appeared between Kim and Mao Asada of Japan.
The Kim-Asada duel did not last long, however. After winning the world championship in the 2008-09 season, Kim won the gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics this year in record fashion. Asada was no longer Kim’s rival.
Next year, traditional figure skating powers including the U.S. and Japan are expected to work hard to end Kim’s dominance on ice.
A Japanese TV program recently filmed Kim’s training in secret. A figure skating source said, “Many foreign figures in figure skating are questioning Kim’s condition and training. Female skaters who won tournaments in this season’s Grand Prix due to Kim’s absence are determined to win next year’s world championship.”
○ Kim’s new program remains secret
Because Kim snubbed this year’s Grand Prix, her new program remains a secret. How well she does with her new coach Peter Oppegard after parting with Brian Orser is one major variable, but she will likely remain No. 1 even if she operates at 80 percent of capacity.
This season’s Grand Prix series and final also showed the lowering of standards by skaters. Alissa Czisny of the U.S., who won the Grand Prix Final, was the lone competitor to exceed 180 points. Kim has scored more than 180 points in all world championship events.
Carolina Kostner of Italy and Miki Ando of Japan scored below 180 points. Joannie Rochette of Canada, who won the bronze in Vancouver, did not perform this season but is behind Kim.
Meanwhile, Kim was named Female Athlete of the Year by the United States Sports Academy Tuesday with Spanish soccer star David Villa taking the men’s award. The two were selected through a worldwide ballot.