Figure Skating: Yuna Kim's Programs
Yuna Kim in 2007
South Korean Conquistador
Like any sport, figure skating is a nerve-wrecking competition. No sport would give us a thrill more than figure skating when skaters enshrine the audience with what might be called masterpiece in the competition. Beating your competitors and winning the title is hard work, and even harder or maybe all but impossible presenting once-in-a-life performance in the frenzy atmosphere. Such a rare feat, however, seems not so rare with Yuna Kim. Yes, with a plenty of reasons. Yuna Kim, though having settled for sliver in the 2014 Sochi Olympics due to its outrageous judging fraud, left indelible footprints in the ladies figure skating, regarded by many as one of the most talented skaters ever lived, especially with her memorizing programs during her career. Her extraordinary skills touted her signature triple-triple jump, immaculate double axel, pristine sit spin, her own version of Hamill spin, etc., but what made Kim what she was is not just her jumping ability or technical mastery but her versatility that shines therein.
Many don't realize what makes Kim great is her detail, not her jump. Mastering jump gives her upper hand in competition but its merits are also quite limited sometimes. Technique would earn her points and titles but her understanding of figure skating as physiological art makes her one of the greatest female figure skaters of all time. Indeed, Kim's jump shows textbook standards in which all components, such as takeoff, rotating axis, air position, rotation, speed, landing, and transition before and after jump, come together as a whole in line with the given choreography. Simply Kim knew how to hit the nail on the head, having all the necessary pieces of her moves converted to points under the COP system so as to make collective contributions to the whole performance, to say nothing of other elements for which Kim stands a head higher than her peers. One of less appreciated features in Kim's skating is her sit-spin in which Kim flaunts the best outlined position, rarely found in other skaters. Most skaters don't pay attention to sit spins because what counts in competition is height, rotation, foot change or position, not whether it has created as ideal a shape as possible. The degree of difficulty or level of performance needs to be scaled in figure skating, but even if the skater manages a certain position, which is considered difficult to do, but comes short of evoking aesthetic appeal, then what merit does it have? Aesthetic rendering or artistry by itself is a challenge to take down, especially while competing, not to mention all the technical details to execute. But this is where Kim stands out.
Yuna Kim in 2010
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Which of Kim's programs do you think is the most difficult to replicate by others?
Kim's Gershwin in 2010
Music is a medium that carries an idea; skating is a language that articulates that idea. In other words skaters are supposed to convey musical messages through a language called skating, and skaters on ice, therefore, communicate with audience through audible music and visible skating performance. You may call it technical skill sets involved in art from the perspective of skating, or you may call it art in motion from the perspective of performance. That's what makes figure skating great and unique among all other sports, and it has inevitably profound and inspiring messages to tell and share.
Technologies are not meaningful by themselves, art forms are not validated without technical assessment and classification. This morphological intertwining between two distinctive sectors has to do with the sport's origin and its long history that has shaped up and reshaped the principles of figure skating. Since the 1970s as figure skating world decided to divorce from the old school compulsory, the quest for redefining the sport kicked off. It wasn't like a wild goose chase. It was supposed to be an orderly retreat from the good old figure skating but under the calm surface of water, an undertow was chaotic and uncertain, creating a swirl of discrepancy and instability.
Experts and star skaters voiced their views and opinions, the ISU initiated the rules and regulations, and debates and malcontents were raised to create more disagreement often. Besides perennial judging corruption and international politics, the sport was in a mode of soul searching as a consensus seemed to have reached the balance between technicalities and artistry. But soon it seemed clear to all that only few understood the art of figure skating, and fewer able to measure it, if ever quantifiable, and nearly none seemed capable of showing any tangible example for the form instead of the imitation that encases the realm of figure skating. Because it turned out we weren't there yet, unfortunately .
The 2009-2010 season was Yuna Kim's apex in her career. Kim won the 2009 World Championships and also seized gold in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Kim was then unstoppable. In addition to her record breaking victory, it was her performances themselves that captured the audience around the globe. After Kim's immaculate James Bond play for short program, Kim skated to Gershwin for her long program in an almost inconceivable fashion and command. Over 150, the then world record, for long program was simply a gross understatement for the qualities Kim had put out that actually embarrasses her protocol. People were left wondering if it would be repeatable by any skaters after Kim. Gershwin, extraordinarily delicate, rich in nuance and perhaps to some, bland and insipid in taste, that is, may be one of the most difficult programs to skate to and too classic to be used for an competitive event in which skaters are to sell their performance. A minute glitz or a moment of off syn would cause catastrophic chain effects to ruin the whole program in less than a second. The arid strikes of note and their tonal sophistication are a prologue of mission impossible.
It was art. It was a masterpiece in display.
Could Kim have done better after Vancouver Olympics?
There is no question that Kim was an extraordinaire. But besides her incredible talent and other factors attributed to her success and her evolution as a skater, much of Kim's artistic development is owed to her former coach Brian Orser and his team staffs. After Kim's split with Orser, which means that she was no longer receiving choreographic as well as aesthetic engineering and supports she used to have, Kim decided to go back to Korea, her home country. Without highly tuned professional team supports, Kim's evolution appeared to halt, and her growth in the artful yet rigorous quest seemed on an indefinite hold.
People began to speculate that this might take a toll on her. Coincidentally Kim, as far as her age was concerned, was no longer at her zenith. According to experts, female figure skaters are physically peak at around 18 or 19, then their physiological forms will decline. Skaters passing mid 20s tend to struggle to maintain her form good enough to be competitive and fit. Interestingly Kim, though barely over twenty, did show little sign of progress in her performance since the 2010 Olympics where she won gold with record breaking scores.
Well, let us not forget this. Kim's lackluster programs were often a mile ahead of the best of her peers. Only fans who used to marvel at her innovative programs were left wondering if she could have revived the old flare again. Like Dick Button who openly denounced the result of Sochi Olympics in favor of Kim, I , who often went overly nit-picking on her, am silently convinced that she could have done more and better. Yes, it's only speculation, but one cannot help but think what would ladies figure skating be like if Kim brought more and evolved further or what if the situation be more in her favor?
You opinions that count
Do you think Kim's split with Orser impact her overall skating negatively?
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Which program do you think is the best of all Yuna Kim's?
2013 Worlds Yuna Kim FS Les Miserables
2013 Les Miserable
The ladies figure skating stopped dead at the 2013 Worlds in London, figuratively speaking. Because of what the ISU did to the sport, figure skating as a sport is facing a grim reality of pending death. International politics and its subsequent corruption has long been feeding off the once glorious sport, but this time, what the ISU inflicted upon was much more than just fraud or arbitrary judging. The clock of sport itself was turned backward, a time lapse, which denies the past that has been established as the ISU began to demolish its own standing ground.