While world champion Mao Asada struggles to regain her form and adjusts to a new coach, archrival and Olympic gold medalist Kim Yu Na is quietly eyeing next March’s world championships in Tokyo for her competitive return.
Earlier this week, Kim, who is sitting out the Grand Prix season, released details on her new short and long programs for this season. The 20-year-old superstar has been training at the East West Ice Palace in Artesia, Calif., with new coach Peter Oppegard after splitting with Brian Orser over the summer and leaving Toronto.
Kim’s new programs were choreographed by David Wilson, whom she has collaborated with for the past four years while winning the 2008 world title and gold at the Vancouver Games.
The music for her short program will feature excerpts from the classical ballet “Giselle” and the free skate a montage of Korean traditional music, including “Arirang.”
“This is the first time that I chose ballet music for my program,” Kim said in a prepared statement from her management company All That Sports. “I think it will be a great opportunity to show another side of me. I like the actual story of ‘Giselle.’ I look forward to fully expressing the dramatic and lyrical interpretation of the music in my program.”
“It’s a passionate, dynamic, and strong music that has a story full of emotional complexity,” Wilson noted. “Although it’s a short program, it feels like a long program because it has such a rich story. It’s a very intense journey and a fabulous opportunity for Yu Na to display her power of expressing complex emotions through the strength of her skating performance.”
Oppegard, a three-time U.S. champion as a pairs skater, is enthusiastic about his new student’s short program selection.
“It’s a new level of sophistication in her movement,” he said. “When we first met, the first thing she mentioned was about further enhancing her artistry. This program allows Yu Na to expand her already well-known artistic abilities to new horizons.”
Wilson discussed how the Korean traditional music was chosen for Kim’s free skate this season.
“Yu Na’s long program is an homage to her home country, a love letter from Kim to Korea,” he said. “It’s Yu Na’s gift and tribute to all of her fans and country that showed her unwavering support throughout her career in competitive skating.”
Added Wilson, “Yu Na is such a well-loved sports hero throughout the world and somewhat of an icon in Korea. As an Olympic champion, I think this is the perfect timing to share who she is and where she comes from culturally with the rest of the world. Through this program, I hope she can bring attention to the world stage what is nearest and dearest to her heart . . . that is Korea.”
Kim stated that she wasn’t sure about the music at first.
“David Wilson had often recommended ‘Arirang’ (one of the most famous Korean folk songs) for program music,” she said. “However, I had my reservations because I thought it was never the right time. After the success at the Olympics, I thought now is the right time to give back to the people of Korea and to thank them for their enthusiastic support.”
Oppegard, who is the brother-in-law of five-time world champion Michelle Kwan, says the free skate allows Kim to put all of her talents and pride on display.
“When I first saw Yu Na doing the free program, it took my breath away because she comes to a point after she does her first triple lutz-triple toe and skates around with a freedom in her movement that looks really beautiful,” he said. “There is true joy and freedom in her movement and skating. I hope she fully delivers these emotions to the audience.
“I also feel that she has a sense of her country and people with her and that in a way, she is giving back and showing appreciation for where she came from.”
Taking the big stage: The Junior Grand Prix Final will precede the senior GPF in Beijing next week, with Risa Shoji one of the top contenders for a medal. The 14-year-old won the JGP in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, and came in second at the JGP in Ostrava, Czech Republic, this season.
Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova, who won two JGP crowns (in Austria and England) this campaign, and compatriot Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, who also claimed two titles (in Romania and Germany) are the favorites.
Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran will represent Japan in the pairs. They took the silver at last year’s JGP Final in Tokyo.