February 25, 2010
The Republic of Korea had never even won a medal outside speed skating before the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010, let alone a gold.
That all changed in Vancouver with the coronation of Yuna Kim, known as ‘Queen Yuna’ in her homeland, where she was a sporting star and cultural icon.
Kim had won the 2009 World Championships by more than 16 points, which is a chasm in figure skating. She arrived in Canada as the clear favourite for the women's Olympic figure skating title, her main competitor being Mao Asada, the 2008 world champion.
To add extra spice, Asada hailed from Japan, the Republic Of Korea's great rival.
Everything went to plan for Kim during the short programme, when she danced to a James Bond medley. She went into the free programme ahead, but there was still the pressure of expectation.
Dressed in royal blue and dancing to Gershwin’s Concerto in F, she delivered an almost flawless performance, the like of which had never been seen before. Yuna seemed to float above the ice, despite the complex footwork her routine required.
At the end, the crowd rose to their feet in appreciation and the 19-year-old was given a score of 150.06, a new world record, beating her own mark by 16.11 points.
"I have accomplished the biggest, most important goal in my life. I am going to enjoy this moment for a while."
This has been described as figure skating’s 'Nadia Comaneci moment', having the same impact that the Romanian gymnast's perfect 10 did at the Olympic Summer Games Montreal 1976.
Previously, 150 had been seen as a mystical mark that could never be reached in figure skating. Asada was still to go, but gold was beyond her grasp. She ended up getting silver, with Joannie Rochette in bronze medal position. Yuna had won by 23 points, with a score of 228.56.
Afterwards, Yuna wrapped herself in the South Korean flag, having again entranced her home nation.
"I have accomplished the biggest, most important goal in my life," she said. "I am going to enjoy this moment for a while."