Pressure Won't Derail Yuna Kim's Quest for a 2nd Gold in Sochi

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2014

South Korea's Yuna Kim is the heavy favorite to capture her second consecutive gold in ladies figure skating.
South Korea's Yuna Kim is the heavy favorite to capture her second consecutive gold in ladies figure skating.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

When you're the defending gold medalist and world-record holder, a virtual rock star in your home country and everyone's odds-on favorite to repeat, you walk around with a big target on your back, and the pressure is enormous. 

Enter the world of South Korea's Yuna Kim, the ladies figure skating gold medalist from Vancouver, who didn't just beat the field but blew it out in world-record-setting fashion.

If anything, the weight of expectations this time around will be even higher. She faces down a talented field that includes 2010 silver medalist Mao Asada of Japan (who has said this will be her last Olympic Games), Russian teenage sensation Julia Lipnitskaia (who will have the benefit of skating at home) and a talented trio of Americans led by Gracie Gold.

But if you know one thing about Kim, it's that she thrives under pressure. And for her not to reach gold in Sochi, it's going to take something special from one of the other competitors, because she's simply not going to fold.

After winning gold in Vancouver, Kim took two years away from the sport to pursue other opportunities and recharge her batteries. If you ask most of the ladies with whom she'll share the ice in Sochi, they'd probably tell you they wish she had stayed gone.

She returned at last year's World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario, and she once again left the other skaters, including longtime rival Adada, in the dust.

It's a mark of her professionalism, talent and drive. After shunning competition for two years, she was able to run away with another world titlefour years after her first and three years after her gold medal. 

As for any pressure she may feel once she hits the ice in Sochi? 

She's not worried one bit.

“I’m not feeling much pressure for the Olympics because I think I already have done many things in my career,” Kim told Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily (reported by NBC Olympics' Nick Zaccardi).

“I will try to enjoy my second Olympics."

And that's bad news for any other skater who hopes to have a shot at collecting the most coveted piece of hardware one can acquire at the Winter Games. 

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 25:  Kim Yu-Na of South Korea celebrates winning the gold medal in the Ladies Free Skating during the medal ceremony on day 14 of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at Pacific Coliseum on February 25, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Kim is one of the most decorated skaters in women's figure skating history. In addition to her Olympic gold medal, she's captured two World Championships, three Grand Prix titles and has never finished below third place in an international competition. 

Her accomplishments are truly mind-boggling. And if she strikes gold again, she will become only the third woman in history to repeat, joining Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt.

She's as confident as they come—who wouldn't be given her record of running opponent's off the ice—and in order to win again, she just needs to be herself.

No frills.

Nothing special.

Just perform up to the admittedly stratospheric standard that she has set throughout her career.

To some, that may seem like a lot of pressure, but in reality, the pressure is on the other competitors to unseat her. They're the ones who need to overcome a woman who has set the short program scoring record five times and records in the free skate and overall score three times each.

Pressure? What pressure. She just needs to do what she knows best.

And she knows it.

The most important thing is to focus on completing my own goals,” Kim said.

“When I came back on the rink in 2012, I set a goal of wrapping up my career well rather than just winning medals. I’m not preparing for any special skills for Sochi because I don’t feel like they are necessary."

And she's probably right.