VANCOUVER, British Columbia – South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na was the woman with the golden gun on the first night of the Olympic ladies’ figure skating competition.
At the end of a slinky performance to a medley of James Bond music, Ms. Kim, the current world champion at age 19, formed her hand into the shape of a pistol—and shot her arch-rival Mao Asada out of top standing.
Judges awarded Ms. Kim 78.5 points for her short program, giving her a nearly five-point lead over Japan’s Ms. Asada, who is also 19.
Ms. Kim’s performance was a killer combination of consistently executed jumps and spins, and stylish choreography. Most skaters excel at either technical or artistic elements, but Ms. Kim managed to nail difficult triple-triple jumps at the beginning of her performance, all while demonstrating the sly personality of a Bond girl.
Ms. Kim, a Korean national hero and one of the nation’s highest-paid athletes, said she wasn’t particularly nervous going into the competition.
“I don’t know why, but I wasn’t really thinking that this is the Olympics. It wasn’t a special feeling—it was the same as like other competition,” she told reporters in English. “I was very comfortable.”
Ms. Kim proved she has nerves of steel. Despite having to skate immediately after Ms. Asada—and watch her deliver a stunning performance—she was unfazed.
“It’s very difficult not to be aware of [Ms. Asada’s] scores,” Ms. Kim said. “But I do have a lot of experience and I was not affected by her performance.”
Ms. Asada was the only woman on Tuesday to perform ladies’ skating’s most difficult move, the triple axel. But the judges gave her lower marks than Ms. Kim on almost every single component. “Usually there is a ten-point difference between myself and Kim, so when I compare it with that, I feel really happy,” she said.
“Today, I was nervous from the time I was in the hotel. The nervousness took a while to go away, but before I started I was able to calm myself down and then gradually towards the end of the program I began to feel the joy of skating at the Olympics,” she said.
One of the evening’s most moving performances came from Canada’s Joannie Rochette, who skated into third place with an emotional performance to tango music. Ms. Rochette’s mother died on Sunday, but she decided to continue in Olympic competition. She began crying as she finished her performance on Tuesday night, as many in the crowd gave her a standing ovation.
“I feel good,” Ms. Rochette told reporters. “But ten years from now, I’d want to come back and try this again. I have no regrets.”
The ladies return to the ice on Thursday for the longer free program, in which any of the three woman could upset the standings set on Tuesday.
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