Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why It Doesn't Matter That Kim Yuna Was Denied Some Golden Trinket

As most people know by now, Kim Yuna (which is pronounced Yuh Na, not Yoo Na, by the way) did not win a second straight gold medal. She did not become the third woman in history, after Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt, to defend her women's figure skating title in the Olympics. And all this happened under very suspicious circumstances that's reminiscent of what happened in 2002 Salt Lake City to Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

But despite numerous articles in publications such as USA Today, Washington Post, The Wire, and The Atlantic about how unfair the result was, I'm not that mad.

Admittedly, I'm approaching this mainly as a fan of Kim Yuna rather than a fan of figure skating. If you're a die-hard fan of the sport, you should probably be very upset because not only was one of your all-time greats denied a historically significant Olympic achievement, but also because the conversation about your sport has now started to reopen the ugly wounds of Salt Lake City.

Yes, in any other Olympics that wasn't in Russia, Kim Yuna would've won the gold. A statement like that shouldn't be true. Most sports have some form of unwritten (and some actually written, as in ice hockey and line changes) home field advantage, but most of those sports are not judged sports. It's not as if a basketball or soccer team plays hard for a whole game, then a panel of judges arbitrarily determines the winner at the end. At most, a biased ref can only impact a small part of the game in such sports and hope that small part proves to be decisive. It's not the same in a wholly judged sport like figure skating.

Most people would say that Kim Yuna deserved gold. Yet she didn't get it. That should spark outrage, especially given the many questionable pieces of evidence we have on hand.

Kim Yuna said she would've died for a gold medal in Vancouver, and her emotional
outburst after her flawless free skate 4 years ago showed that

But let's look from the grand perspective of how it affects Kim Yuna. She already has a gold medal. Not only does she have that, but she also now owns two of the best and most perfect figure skating performances in Olympic history. The only reason that people aren't that awestruck by her in Sochi is that they've already seen her in Vancouver. She also apparently has never finished off the podium in her entire career. She goes out a legend, gold medal or not.

Furthermore, she herself seems to be the one most okay with what happened. While lots of her supporters and fans of the sport in general are busy signing petitions and whatnot, she's been nothing but gracious about everything. And I don't mean that in the sense that she's been defeatist and meek in some kind of stereotypically Asian way. Rather, she seems to be satisfied knowing that most of the world appreciated what she was able to do, and at her unmatched level now, some Olympic doubloon is not really going to make much of a difference.

To know that not even the highest honour in your field can affect the esteem people have for you... Now that's power.

Here's a touching and raw interview that looks as though took place right after the medal ceremony. It's a complex scene because first, the woman (who is older) seems to be thanking her for all that she's done as a national icon. This is Kim Yuna as "The Queen." Then right after, the same woman tells her that she's still the best, almost as a parent would to a child after she's lost a competition she rightly won. This is Kim Yuna as a 23-year old young woman, the person she's rarely, if ever, been allowed to be.

And towards the end when she answers the reporter's question, Kim Yuna says that she's not crying because she feels aggrieved about the results (though she must be to some extent), but mainly because she feels so unburdened that it's all over, that what she's dedicated almost all her life towards has just ended.

It's a bit staggering to think that you've peaked in your life's calling in your early 20s. A bit depressing too, if you think about it. But fortunately, I think Kim Yuna sees herself as more than "just" a figure skater. That is a wonderful thing because there are few things sadder than athletes who so define themselves through their sport that they're nothing without it. These are the Allen Iversons and Brett Favres of the world, the ones who can never let go and move on.

I'm just happy that she seems to be happy to finally be done with it all. Even though she loved the sport, it must have also been incredibly stressful and all-consuming, perhaps to the point where it gradually morphed into an obligation and duty rather than a joyful passion.

But even though Kim Yuna dominated her sport as Michael Jordan dominated his, she doesn't seem to share that same kind of near-sociopathic obsession with one very narrow aspect of life. That's a real gift, isn't it? To be all-conquering and remain human at the same time.

Jung Yong Hwa of CN Blue is one of her many celebrity admirers

I hope she takes some time off, then comes back to the spotlight to enjoy her well-earned fame and goodwill.

I hope she has a few "scandals" (Koreanspeak for anytime two people are seen holding hands or something) with some of the many Korean male celebrities who have proclaimed her to be their dream girl.

I hope she continues her humanitarian work and finds a new, perhaps even more fulfilling, life's endeavour in that.

I hope she lets her body heal.

I hope she continues to sing, make commercials, appear on variety shows, maybe make a few cameos in dramas, or whatever she wants to do.

I hope she inspires more Korean girls to not think that they need plastic surgery to feel beautiful and to take pride in their distinctly ethnic features.

Most importantly, I hope she says yes when I become distinguished enough to ask her out on a date.

Aww, so cute

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