Monday, July 19, 2010

Pulling a Michelle

So... here I am. Long time no see, blog.

According to Yahoo! JAPAN, Yu-Na Kim just announced today that she will be skipping the 2010-2011 Grand Prix season and just focus on preparing for Worlds instead. Now, while she has certainly earned the right to do whatever she wants with her career (although everyone has that right, to be honest, putting aside questions of commitment and sportsmanship), whether she will actually show up to Worlds is another matter. She may be no Serena Williams (well as far as anyone can tell), but it seems like much of her time will now focus on ice shows and promotional/endorsement activities which could easily distract her from her preparations. Not that it really matters, anyway--the judges are happy to give her whatever score it takes to make sure she ends up on top, if not somewhere very close by.

For me it is also interesting to note how the figure skating system works in Korea. Yu-Na has not had to compete at Nationals for several seasons now, and through this announcement (correctly) assumes that she has a spot guaranteed at Worlds. Even Michelle Kwan didn't have that. Mao Asada doesn't have that. Yes, the depth of the fields in the US and Japan are different, but this does raise the question of whether that extra competition hurts or helps those top skaters who go to Worlds. For many skaters Nationals is the most intense and high-stakes competition, even more so than Worlds, and how this mental and emotional test affects their energy and concentration going into Worlds is intriguing. That Yu-Na would win Nationals by some score in the 300s is a given, but obligations are obligations as far as skating competitively goes. She trains in Canada and gets to enjoy uninterrupted training, while other skaters training abroad must return to their home country for Nationals. I mean, this system of giving Yu-Na a pass works for Korea and the ISU really has no reason to get involved, but it is a very strategic move that should leave other federations wondering.

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