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Mystery surrounds Kim-Orser breakup

by Jack Gallagher

The intrigue surrounding the split between South Korean Olympic gold medalist Kim Yu Na and coach Brian Orser seems to know no end.

Just when it looked like things had calmed down after their surprising split last month, Kim switched ice rinks last week and was planning to train at Toronto’s Granite Club, according to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper. Kim had worked with Orser at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club for the past four years.

Though Kim would have still been working with choreographers David and Tracy Wilson, it clearly would have been an uncomfortable situation for all had she remained at the rink Orser works at. Shae-Lynn Bourne, who will choreograph Kim’s new short program, is based at the Granite Club, so the change seemed logical.

However, on Monday, Kim’s agency, All That Sports, announced she was leaving Toronto for good and would relocate to a rink in Los Angeles.

Developments are happening so fast in this tale that you have to keep your head on a swivel to keep up with it all.

“She (Kim) will be relocating to Los Angeles on Sept. 6, where she will continue to train alone mainly at the East West Ice Palace located in Artesia, Ca., until a new coach is appointed,” said the ATS release from Seoul.

Kim is scheduled to skate in three shows in Los Angeles in the next month, including one with five-time world champion Michelle Kwan of the United States.

In the meantime, trying to get to the bottom of the reason for the breakup between the superstar skater and champion coach has proved to be no easy task. Between comments from Kim, Orser, Kim’s mother, Park Mi Hee, and Kim’s agent, Helen Choi, there are mixed signals being emitted.

Orser was informed by Park on Aug. 2 that his services would no longer be required.

Kim, who turned 20 on Sunday, claimed she didn’t know anything about the move in a tearful meeting with Orser three weeks later.

Orser, the two-time Olympic silver medalist and 1987 world champion for Canada, was infuriated back in July when he found out through the Internet that Kim would not be competing in the upcoming Grand Prix season.

Since Orser was fired, there has been a back and forth between the two camps that has exposed the darker side of skating. With both sides going to the media in recent days, the rancor has increased.

Orser claims he was never given a reason for his termination, while Choi says he does know why.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of it all, Ice Time has reached out to multiple sources in the skating community to find out what the story behind the story is.

It must be something that is a very sensitive matter because it seems to be keeping even those in the know tight-lipped.

“I have known about the problem for a month,” said a source who is close to both Kim and Orser. “Given that, I can’t say anything to anyone.”

The source went on to say, “It’s not about money or the (Mao) Asada thing.”

The first sign of trouble in the Kim-Orser relationship surfaced after the world championships in March, when Orser says he was approached about coaching Mao. This clearly upset the Kim camp and relations have never been the same.

Mao’s agent told Ice Time at the time that no approach was made to Orser.

A theory posed by another source attributes the trouble to possible cultural and communication issues.

“Brian said he and Tracy (Wilson) wanted to give Yu Na ‘space’ after the Olympics to decide what she wanted to do. Perhaps that was interpreted as disinterest by Mi Hee,” the source stated. “Brian seems to be truly baffled by all of this and he has always been completely honest with me, hence my suspicion that cultural differences, communication nuances somehow played a role.”

But it is hard to imagine that after four wonderful years together the sides suddenly couldn’t relate to each other.

This source also did not believe that money was a key point.

“Brian told me that they never had a contract of any sort, he never got a cut of any of her (Kim’s) money, and was simply paid his hourly fee when working with her,” the source said.

Orser did not respond to a request for comment.

So the plot thickens. Stay tuned as Ice Time continues to search for the answer to the question so many are asking.

Early start: World junior champion Kanako Murakami will make her senior debut at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, later this month. The event is often used as a testing ground for skaters stepping up in rank or returning from injury.

Murakami will skate in her first senior Grand Prix event at the NHK Trophy in her hometown of Nagoya in late October.

Summer setback: American Mirai Nagasu pulled out of October’s Japan Open team competition at Saitama Super Arena recently due to injury. Nagasu, the fourth-place finisher at the Vancouver Games, has a stress fracture of her right ankle, according to icenetwork.com.

The injury forced the 17-year-old Nagasu to shelve her summer training plans, which means she will be facing an uphill climb this season if she hopes to challenge Mao for the world championship. Nagasu is currently sporting a protective boot that covers her right shin and ankle.

Despite the injury, Nagasu has had a busy summer. She rode in the Nisei Week Parade through the Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles earlier this month.