Kim rises to occasions at Olympic ladies figure skating

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World champion Yu-Na Kim of South Korea, 19, performs in the women's figure skating short program in the women's competition Tuesday Feb. 23, 2010 at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Kim Yu-na has set a world best in routing a strong field in the women's short program at the Vancouver Olympics. Her score of 78.5 points not only shattered her own record, it put her almost five points ahead of longtime rival Mao Asada. [Xinhua Photo]

In a league of her own, reigning world champion Kim Yu-Na made a perfect Olympic debut at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, blowing away all her rivals with a record mark of ladies figure skating short program on Tuesday.

"I'm glad that I have performed all that I have practised," said the 19-year-old Korean, who entered the Olympic Winter Games as a strong favorite that no skater in decades has.

"I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that this is the Olympics," Kim said. "I have been waiting for this for a really long time. I felt comfortable and I was able to enjoy my short program today."

Copying a 007 pose of holding a gun in the end of her James Bond routine, Kim drew all the audience into her display with more personality and scored a world record of 78.50 points to beat her main rival Mao Asada of Japan.

Having played a great performance, Asada, also 19 years old, hit a triple axel but failed to cope with the triple-double combination that she had planned, scoring a personal best of 73.78 points and being ranked the second before Thursday's free skate.

Kim, coming up to the ice right after the Japan's top female skater, nailed a triple lutz-triple toeloop, a bigger combination than Asada did, and hit all her elements, the spins, spirals and footwork, in a terrific way.

"Mao skated perfectly," recalled Kim at the mixed zone after her competition. "I was a little worried. But no, there was no pressure."

"I tried to keep focus on my short program," she added.

As South Korea's first skater to win an ISU Championships (in the 2006 junior worlds) as well as the first to win a medal at a senior worlds, Kim has raised South Korea's hopes of its first Olympic gold medal in figure skating.

The highly expected teenager, however, said she's not under pressure ahead of Thursday's long program.

"I can think of it in two ways. I could let the pressure get to me or I could try to maintain the good start I had today," she said.

"My goal is to focus on each performance. I have one more day to practise and I'm not worried because I think I have the best coach (Canadian Brian Orser) of my life.

"My stamina and training in both Toronto and Vancouver has been perfect," she added.

Kim has lost only once since the bronze medal-taking performance at the 2008 world championships, but the one who had beaten the Korean is Asada, the 2008 world champion who trailed Kim with a deficit of no more than five points.


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