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In securing gold with a dazzling free programme at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum, the 19-year-old Kim posted a world record points total and earned hero status in the Republic of Korea as the country’s first Olympic figure skating champion. Featuring a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, her trademark camel spin and a host of other superbly executed jumps, Kim’s graceful, moving performance proved one of the high points of the 2010 Winter Games, bringing the 17,000 capacity crowd to its feet and earning the praise of IOC President Jacques Rogge.
The Korean skater had announced her arrival on the international scene four years earlier, in winning her first major title at the 2006 World Junior Championships, where she topped the podium from Japan’s Mao Asada, who took silver behind her in Vancouver. Kim’s first senior ISU world title came in Los Angeles in 2009, where she beat Canada’s Joannie Rochette to the gold and announced herself as a firm favourite to win the Olympic title in 2010.
Kim performed her Vancouver short programme to a medley of James Bond theme tunes, showcasing her supreme skills by stringing together the most technically challenging of jumps, among them the triple lutz and triple toe loop. Scoring high for choreography and interpretation, as well as skating skills and performance/execution, she took a commanding lead in the competition with a world record 78.50 points.
Choosing Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F as the soundtrack to her free programme two days later, Kim treated the Vancouver crowd to a series of exquisitely executed combinations, among them a double axel-double toe loop-double loop, a triple salchow, a triple lutz and a double axel. Rewarded for her technical mastery and sublime choreography with another world record score of 150.06 points, Kim took gold by a distance, winning by over 18 points from Asada and Rochette to set a world best that still stands today.
“When I was young, I never dreamed I’d win such an important competition,” said the Korean skater, who was elevated to hero status by her adoring compatriots. “For a long time my only goal was just to skate at the Olympics, something that not many Koreans had done. I enjoyed a lot of success at junior and then senior level, which is when I started to think about the Olympic gold medal, even though it was already pretty late in my career.”