Friday, February 26, 2010

KIm Yuna (김 연아) - sit back and soak it in

Sit back, dear readers, and enjoy what you are seeing: Kim Yuna, right now, is Tiger Woods in 2001, Michael Jordan in 1991, Wayne Gretzky in 1985, Babe Ruth in 1927. She's good. She's real good. She just treated her competition about the way a zamboni treats an ice rink: she steamed it, soaked it, flattened it, and moved on without taking names, and we get to watch~!

I've written about Kim Yuna before, and probably will again. I'm mad about this lady.

First of all, as a sportwriter once wrote about Tiger Woods: "You will never be as good at anything, as Tiger Woods is at golfing" - you will never be as good at anything you do, as Kim Yuna is at figure skating right now.

Yuna Kim
The Korean internet is crashing right now, because everybody wants to watch Kim Yuna's skating video. Do you know how hard it is to make the Korean internet crash? (Not hard, if you mean Korean web browsers [IE6, baby!]... but I mean the Korean INTERNET) is not responding to my requests for anything Yuna. So I want to give you a video clip, but the clip won't play, because 50 000 000 other people are trying to watch it right now.

I did, however, get to watch it on TV, live. It'll be replayed a lot, but seeing fresh, that first time, with everything still up in the air, was a thrill. And dear readers, Kim Yuna NAILED THE HELL out of that program. I watched a few other skaters before her, and it was like watching a different sport entirely-- except Asada, who is also amazing. Her movements were so clean, her jumps were technically perfect. So Yuna rocks.

(I missed the performance of Joannie Rochette, the bronze medalist, and a Canadian. Good for her, especially after losing her mother this week. Sorry Canada, but this time I'm rooting for Yuna... and here's why)

Dear readers, Korea needs Kim Yuna. Actually... Korea doesn't need Kim Yuna. Korea has other heroes and such. But young Korean women need Kim Yuna. In particular, young Korean girls need Kim Yuna, because here is a woman who is famous for being really excellent at something, for working hard at something spectacular and beautiful, and achieving it. The heroes Korean girls have to work with are pretty slim pickings. There's the girl who was tortured to death for protesting Japanese colonialism. (with the hate Japan subtext) there's the woman who was an amazing accomplished poet, painter, and thinker... whose image has been manipulated into that of a good mother and dutiful wife (with the mother/wife/get in the kitchen subtext). There are a few more modern female heroes who are getting in the mix - I'm fond of Yi Soyeon, the first Korean in space, and a female, but she's been mostly out of the public eye since then.

But here's where Yuna shines:

First, she's AS cute and charming as the pop starlets that everybody idolizes , and that young girls want to be like (unfortunately, this is still a requirement for Korean female role models: Ye Soyeon and gold medal powerlifter Jang Miran are cool, but not conventionally beautiful, and I doubt a lot of little girls say they want to be like them when they grow up, and I bet parents would discourage their daughters from becoming powerlifters). The Wondergirls, Girls Generation, and the like, are cute, charming, whatever, but the fact is, they're famous more for shaking their lovely asses (and singing and making asian poses at cameras) than anything else. Yuna's telegenic enough to totally run with that crowd.

But then on top of that, she set a goal, to be the best in the world at something, and NAILED it. She did what she had to do, including living in Canada and sequestering herself from her own fans, withdrawing from competitions to focus on Olympic gold... and then when the day arrived, she didn't just rise to the occasion, she vaulted 23 points ahead of her nearest competitor (who also set personal bests), and 15 points ahead of her own personal best. She looks cute making heart fingers... but she's also got the eye of the tiger, as surely as Michael Jordan did.

And she's been chasing excellence, not fame, not beauty, not a rich heir boyfriend, not praise for her domestic skills, and she did it. Really did it. And every little girl in Korea should dream of becoming excellent at something, and stopping at nothing to reach her goal, and that would be great.

So today's a happy day for Korea. And for me. Watching her long program (short one too) approached the sublime, and the mounting jubilation of the people around me as she nailed jump after jump, heightened the experience that much more. It's a great day for Korea.

That's all for now. Way to go Yuna.


Robert Koehler said...

...Wayne Gretzky in 1985...

Does that mean Kim Yu-na can't skate backwards or check?

ZenKimchi said...

Rob, have I ever told you that you're a good writer? DAMN!

John from Daejeon said...

Too bad we don't gush on about those who save lives on a daily basis--the real unsung heroes around the world. Entertainment does help to make the world a better place, but it’s a shame that we don’t thank all those working tirelessly to eradicate hunger, diseases, and other maladies that affect the world's population the same way we elevate those who can throw balls through a basket or kick them into nets. And it’s absolutely pitiful that the man fed a billion people (Norman Ernest Borlaug) never received these types of accolades that a figure skater, a golfer, and a basketball player have, and two out of those three are hardly role models I’d like to have my kids emulate.

She did an awesome job and was a joy to watch, but in the grand scheme of things, I just wish that we would have the same, or even more, respect and praise for all those dirt farmers toiling through all sorts of conditions and long hours keeping food in our stomachs and clothes on our backs.

The Sanity Inspector said...

I watched one of her routines on YouTube, but haven't yet found the gold medal clip. She's impressive, no doubt.

Chris in South Korea said...

Sit back? Soak it in? I just hope she gets a day off once in awhile :) We'll be seeing her pop up more places in the next few months - the side of every building and most billbords advertising one thing or another...

She is, however, a class act, someone quite pleasant to look at (never hurts), and above all, someone for the locals to aspire to become. Way to go.

Phoenixstorm said...

I'm happy for her. You could see how much it meant to her and her performance was glorious.

Yet, I don't see why her accomplishment makes her a better or more suitable role model for young Korean girls than the others you mentioned, even the pop tarts.

I'm with John on this. I hope more and more Korean women who don't excel in the "glamourous" professions get the exposure and recognition.

The same thing goes on back in my homeland. The accomplishments of athletes, actors, and musicians should be lauded but so should the teachers, doctors, engineers, and humanitarians.

I bet if we could make them into competitive sports for the olympics they would be.

HL said...

Yuna Kim is a role model to me (I'm Korean-American, living in the states).

She strives for excellence. She was breaking records with every performance, records SHE set.

Even more amazing, were the struggles she faced in a country not known for figure skating. She was the first. Amazing, inspirational pioneer of sorts.

(basically everything what you said, lol)

I want to channel that spirit into everything I do.

For me, another role model would be Honey Lee. She's so beautiful and well-spoken as well as smart, talented and incredibly accomplished. Like a living goddess.