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Yuna Kim’s evolving Olympic role

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Yuna Kim captivated audiences when she became the 2010 Olympic champion in Vancouver. It was in 2010 that she became the first South Korean to win a medal in figure skating.

After the Vancouver Games, Kim acted as a bid ambassador for the PyeongChang Olympics, while the city was angling for the chance to host the 2018 event. She practiced English for weeks leading up to the presentation in front of the International Olympic Committee panel. The IOC selected PyeongChang in 2011, giving the city time to prepare their venues and facilities. Many in the press contributed PyeongChang’s victory to Kim, who is a South Korean national treasure, they said.

Then in 2014, looking to become only the third ladies figure skater to defend her gold medal, the legend earned a silver medal behind Russian Adelina Sotnikova in Sochi.

Soon after Sochi, Kim retired – but she did not stay away from the Olympic spotlight. In November 2014, she built on her role as bid ambassador when she was named an official ambassador for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

"I remember the moment when PyeongChang was announced as the Host City of the Olympic Games,” she said to media. “For the success of the PyeongChang Olympic Games, I will work hard to attract attention and bring publicity to the event and as a former skater, to create an environment where athletes can give their best performances."

Part of her role as ambassador included unveiling the Olympic torch on the One Year Out date in 2017. She also awarded the ladies medals at the 2017 Four Continents Championships, which acted as the test event for the Games in PyeongChang.

Since Kim has been off the competitive ice, a new skater has taken up the residence as the sport’s best, complete with record-breaking performances: Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva.

Kim set a total points record of 228.56 at the 2010 Olympics; Medvedeva posted 229.71 to top that record at the 2017 European Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Medvedeva topped her own record a few months later at the world championships, totaling 233.41 points. And at the 2017 World Team Trophy, she totaled 241.31 points.

Medvedeva also holds records for the top short program score recorded: 79.21 points at the December 2016 Grand Prix Final, formerly held by the now-retired Mao Asada, of Japan, the Vancouver silver medalist. She bested herself again at the 2017 World Team Trophy, earning 80.85 in the short program. At the European championships, Medvedeva improved upon her own record free program score: 150.79 points. Medvedeva bettered herself again at the world championships a few months later, tallying 154.40 points, and upped the ante to 160.46 points at the World Team Trophy.

Up-and-coming ladies skater Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan debuted a new dress at the same world championships, which drew many comparisons to Kim’s free skate dress from Vancouver.



Later, Tursynbaeva clarified to media that it was not intentionally meant to mimic Kim’s dress. “Together with the coach we decided to change the costume for free skate. Some people say that it is similar to Yuna Kim's dress, but it was not supposed to be like that and I like this costume very much.”

The U.S.’ figure skating Olympic hopefuls also feel the connection to Kim. Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. national champion, told NBC Olympics that her favorite Olympic memory was watching Kim win gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

It seems like a rite of passage for many of the U.S. skaters who were in the same place at the same time with Kim: They love to photos of themselves with Kim on social media.

“Yuna Kim has been one of my all-time favorite skaters,” Gold said to NBC Olympics. “I have been watching videos of her skating since 2009, before she won in Vancouver. She was absolutely one of the best jumpers our sport has ever seen and an incredible role model. She was always, and still is, gracious and kind.”

Adam Rippon: ‘I’ll be 100 percent when it counts’

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NEW YORK – Adam Rippon stopped by TODAY to skate at the Rink at Rockefeller Center, one of his first performances after breaking his foot in January. He told NBC Olympics what is new about this Olympic cycle for him in the lead-up to the 2018 PyeongChang Games and explained why he’s so grateful to be a part of the Stars on Ice cast.

Can you tell us about Stars on Ice and how it’s your reintroduction to skating?

As soon as I broke my foot and as soon as I got my Stars on Ice contract, it was my goal to be ready for the tour. As I was getting closer, I had some doubts that I would be ready. But I’m so thankful my team of trainers and everybody that helped me get on the ice and be strong and be ready to just come back and feel really confident on the ice. Before I had gone on tour, I had only skated three days. And then I had the week of rehearsals. All my cast mates and everybody on the staff and everything, they were just so great. I felt really good. And by the time show hit, I felt like I was my old self again.

Would you say that you’re at 100 percent?

I would say I’m about 75 [percent]. I still am limited in what I can do regarding my left foot. But I am skating every day. I’m doing flip, loop and Lutz. I still haven’t done an Axel, a Sal[chow] or a toe. I’m on the right track. Just being on the ice makes me feel confident that I’ll able to be at 100 percent very soon.

I wanted to ask about the cast, too, because everyone is friends. What’s it like being on the road together?

It’s so much fun. For everybody else it’s kind of the end of a long season. But for me, it’s the beginning of a season. I feel so lucky to be a part of it again. I really missed being a part of that group and being a part of the action. And I missed it so much. When I was back with everyone, I had a moment to myself. I pulled my good friend Ashley Wagner aside and I said, “We’re so lucky.” Sometimes when we’re so busy and it goes – boom, boom, boom – we forget to take a moment and remind ourselves how fortunate we are to be doing what we love and all of that. Having my time away from the ice, and then getting back into it and being on the Stars tour, it’s awesome. It feels so good to be back.

What was your day to day like during your injury? Was it a complete reversal of a normal training day?

It was effing terrible. It was so bad. I’m just one of those people that, if there’s a problem, I want to work through it. Push through it and do everything I can. Anything. I love being active. This was the first time in my life that the only way to get better was to do nothing, and just wait. It was just terrible! At first I put myself on this timeline that, eight weeks, I’d be back on the ice. That was quick. That ended up being halfway through. I had been in the boot for eight weeks and then they said it needed to be four more weeks. We did another x-ray, and they said four more. And so I actually had been in the boot for almost 14 weeks before I was even in a sneaker. Then I was in a sneaker for about four weeks and I said, “Can I go on the ice, please?” And they said, “You’ve already been on the ice.” I went that morning. I snuck on the ice one time! I did my best to stay absolutely true to what they wanted me to do. This is such an important year. Beyond that, I don’t want to mess anything up. It can become really serious. I’m really grateful for everybody who kept me sane. They kept me busy when I went out to Colorado Springs. They kept me in the gym for a few hours every day. I was working with a trainer and a therapist for another hour. I had a full day, it just wasn’t on the ice. I still felt like I was an athlete. I am so grateful to the people I was working with.

Because this is such an important year, has your outlook changed? You’ve been through this before.

I have. I would just say that compared to other Olympic cycles, I feel confident. I don’t feel like I need to do anything extraordinary or anything like that. I’ve never taken more than maybe five or 10 days off, ever. In my whole life, ever since starting to skate. Taking three months off was definitely a humbling experience. But not having taken any of that time off for 17 years, I think maybe it was needed and necessary. I was able to deal with a few small injuries, little nagging things, and I was able to get a nice core base of strength because I had been doing all those strengthening exercises. I feel strong. I feel mature. I think being a little bit older and wiser, I know to be patient and take my time. I’m confident in what I need to get done and what I need to do. I’m confident that I’ll be in shape and 100 percent when it counts.

I'm confident in what I need to get done and what I need to do. I'm confident that I'll be in shape and 100 percent when it counts.

Adam Rippon

Do you have anything that you can reveal for the Olympic season?

Well I am in between trying to pick some music for my short program right now. But, my free skate, I’m going to keep my “Arrival of the Birds” and Coldplay. I love that. It feels like my story. The bird is broken but at the end he flies and he’s free. And my foot was broken and now I’m going to fly and be free.

What color will your hair be for the season?

I’m just rocking that natural shade of whatever this is. It’s just much easier.

I know you’ve said you don’t watch a ton of skating, but I was wondering if you watched Worlds.

I did.

Was that sad?

You know, at that point I had really accepted what had happened. Nationals was probably the weirdest. Obviously I really wanted to be at Worlds and skating, but the only thing I could do was focus on my recovery and cheer on my teammates. They skated great. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

That’s very mature, like you said.

I mean, what was I gonna do? Throw a temper tantrum and have a breakdown? It wasn’t worth it.

On Icenetwork’s podcast “IceTalk,” you said that “your whole life is TBH,” which is one of my favorite things that you’ve ever said. Plus, the “I’m like a witch” comment. So I was wondering, what you can shine a light on through your wisdom.

I would say that I’m a hot mess all the time. I usually finish things in the last second. But I think, as I’ve gotten older, I don’t worry about it and I just rock it. If I forgot to put something on and I have to wear a trash bag, I’m just like, I’m gonna rock a trash bag today. I’m really go-with-the-flow, but I take things really seriously. At the same time, when things don’t go my way, I don’t ever freak out. Why? Why freak out?

I’ve also heard you are a great cook. And I wanted to know about any failed experiments.

Yea, excellent. Oh my god. Everything I’ve ever cooked. I’m trying to think… recently, no. I’ve strayed away from it. I have a lot of raw things. Not because I’m trying healthy!

You don’t want to cook it?

No, I don’t want to do that. It’s just safer that way. If I really apply myself… I’m so scattered. I’m an organized person!

I’m not convinced.

I’m not… I’m not. Somehow, I’m not making dinner for anyone, any time soon. Not for a while.

Okay. Lastly, what’s on your agenda for New York City while you’re visiting?

This trip is just a super quick trip. We are coming here as a cast to go to the Figure Skating in Harlem charity event [in May]. My friend Ashley and I are coming a day early. We’re gonna try to get a lot of our New York friends together and do a group skate together. Just friends from all over the country that have ended up in New York that we haven’t seen in years. It’ll be a lot of fun. And Ashley and I both have brothers that live here. And her brother used to skate. We’ll get her brother, our old friends and we’ll have a great old time.

Skeleton 101: Qualifying for the 2018 Olympic Games

Image Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Up to 50 skeleton athletes will compete in PyeongChang.

Quota spots will be awarded based on the IBSF Ranking List as of January 14, 2018. Countries can send a maximum of three men and three women to PyeongChang. 

As the host country, South Korea will have the possibility of entering a minimum of one athlete per event. 

Complete qualification system for the 2018 Winter Olympics, via the IBSF.

Qualification for the U.S. Olympic team is based on international points earned during the 2017-18 season. The team will be named on Jan. 15.

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