After being sidelined by a foot injury for much of the season, reigning Olympic champion Kim Yu-Na told reporters on the eve of Wednesday’s short program at the Sochi Games that she felt her time atop the sport may have come four years earlier, in Vancouver.
It was a glorious time, in which Kim, then 19, set record marks for both her short and long programs.
Wednesday at Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace, Kim proved herself wrong, staging an elegant short program that catapulted her to the top of the standings roughly midway through the completion.
Skating to “Send in the Clowns,” Kim performed the same difficult jumps she executed so masterfully in her short program in Vancouver — opening with a triple lutz-triple toe combination, following soon after by a triple flip and a double axel. She was awarded 74.92 points, which was roughly 3.5 points off her record marks four years ago but quite possibl7 beyond the reach of the women yet to compete.
Unlike so many skaters aspiring to her status as figure skating’s “Queen,” Kim didn’t perform a series of jumps Wednesday but staged a beautiful, seamless dance on ice, its technical rigor masked by the grace and confidence with which she delivered each element. No jump was beyond her reach; she was a skater in full command.
Because South Korea didn’t qualify for Sochi’s team figure-skating event, which opened the Games, Kim had no need to arrive in Russia until just a few days ago. Wednesday’s performance was the first time she had stepped on the ice to compete.
Her turn came uncharacteristically early in the competition — 17th among 30 — because her world ranking has dipped to 25th because of her extended injury-related layoff.
With 11 skaters yet to compete, San Jose’s Polina Edmunds, 15, remains in second (61.04).
No woman has won consecutive figure skating gold at the Olympics since Germany’s Katarina Witt did so in 1984 and 1988.