Fans will miss a familiar face during the 2018 Winter Olympics as South Korean ice skater Yuna Kim will not be competing. While Kim is not competing in the PyeongChang games, she is still involved in the Olympics. Kim was one of the bid ambassadors, and Kim was selected to light the Olympic cauldron during the Opening Ceremony.
At just 27 years old, Kim is one of the most popular athletes in South Korea. She will continue to be remembered for her medal-winning performances in both the 2010 and 2014 games. Kim has lived up to her “Queen” nickname by turning her success on the ice into a worldwide brand with plenty of business opportunities.
In an interview with Time, Kim admitted she did not always think she could win a gold medal, but her success prior to the Olympics allowed her to dream bigger.
“When I was little, I had never really expected to win such a big competition,” Kim told Time. “For a long time, just skating in the Olympics had been my goal because not many Koreans had done it. But after doing well in junior and senior competitions, I started thinking about the Olympics gold medal, though it was fairly late in my career.”
Learn more about one of the most popular athletes in South Korea.
1. Kim Lit the Olympic Torch During the 2018 Opening Ceremony
As expected, Kim was chosen as the final person to light the Olympic torch during the 2018 Olympics Opening Ceremony. Kim put her skates on one more time to light the torch high above the crowd. Heading into the ceremony, she was the favorite to close the Opening Ceremony by lighting the flame. NBC Sports explains why Kim was the favorite to light the flame.
The favorite to be the final torch bearer has to be Yuna Kim, the beloved 2010 Olympic figure skating champion who retired after taking silver in Sochi. Kim is a PyeongChang 2018 ambassador and spoke on the bid’s behalf at the 2011 session where IOC members voted PyeongChang as the host over Munich and Annecy, France.
Kim also carried the Olympic torch during the first-leg of the torch passing in 2017. Here’s a look at the cauldron after the torch was lit.
2. Kim’s Mother Admitted She “Majored in Yuna” to Help Her Daughter Make It as an Ice Skater
Most successful athletes have achieved what they have thanks in part to family members and coaches who have helped them develop their craft. Kim’s mother Mee-hee Park has admitted she prioritized her daughter’s career at the expense of other family members.
“I majored in Yuna,” Park wrote in her memoir (via The New York Times). “For Yuna, I studied harder than when I was in school. I devoted myself to her more passionately than when I was in love.”
After a coach noted her daughter had promise on the ice, Park quit painting and her community involvement to focus on Kim developing as a skater. According to The New York Times, this commitment caused her to miss her other daughter’s graduation, and forget her husband’s birthday. During Kim’s Olympic career, Park moved all over the country with her daughter as she trained in places like Canada, leaving their other family members behind. Her mother’s discipline was difficult at times for Kim, but the former skater believes it helped her become highly successful.
“When I saw other skaters chatting and goofing among themselves, I wanted to do that too, mingling with other kids freely,” Kim told The New York Times. “But I couldn’t, because my mother was always there to maintain discipline. But it helped me focus on training.”
3. She Became South Korea’s First Person to Win an Olympic Gold Medal in Figure Skating
Kim is beloved in South Korea thanks to her history-making Olympic performances. During the 2010 games, Kim became the first South Korean to win the figure skating competition. It would be the lone gold medal of her career as her 2014 competition was surrounded by controversy as Kim was awarded a silver medal rather than another gold.
Her skating days may be finished, but Kim played a behind-the-scenes role in getting South Korea the 2018 games. According to NBC, Kim was a bid ambassador for the PyeongChang Olympics. Kim spoke with NBC about how she approached her role with the games.
“I remember the moment when PyeongChang was announced as the Host City of the Olympic Games,” Kim told NBC. “For the success of the PyeongChang Olympic Games, I will work hard to attract attention and bring publicity to the event and as a former skater, to create an environment where athletes can give their best performances.”
4. Kim Won a Silver Medal in 2014 as Russian Skater Adelina Sotnikova Was Controversially Awarded the Gold
By no fault of her own, Kim found herself at the center of controversy during the 2014 games in Sochi. Adelina Sotnikova was awarded the gold medal causing many to wonder if the competition was fixed. The controversy centered around Sotnikova’s free skating scores. In a lengthy piece detailing why Kim had a case for gold, The Atlantic explained the questionable scoring.
Not only do Sotnikova’s scores look like an anomaly compared to her peers, they put Sotnikova’s performance up there with some of the very best scores in history.
The highest-scoring free skate in the eight years since the judging system changed to this GOE system has been Kim Yu-na’s gold medal-winning long program at the Vancouver Olympics…
Sotnikova scored as close as anyone’s come to that free skate with 149.95 on Thursday. The highest score she had previously scored with that same routine in international competition was at the European Championships in January. There she scored a 131.63 — around 18.32 points less than she scored on Thursday. It should be said that Sotnikova has had trouble putting together clean free skates, and that Thursday’s skate might have been the cleanest skate of her life.
Still, people don’t believe that Sotnikova is around 18 points better than she was three weeks ago.
Not everyone believed Kim should have won as USA Today’s Chris Chase made a case for the scoring being valid.
It’s debatable, but not a robbery. Sotnikova skated well enough to win gold. She had a carefully constructed program with seven triples, five of which were in a combo. Kim had six and three, respectively. Thus, Sotnikova was going in with a higher total and made more margin for error, which she took advantage of with a minor hop after one exchange.
According to NBC, more than two million fans signed a petition that requested an investigation, but the International Skating Union did not launch an investigation.
5. During Her Skating Career, Kim Consistently Ranked in the Forbes Top 10 List of Highest Paid Female Athletes
Kim’s performance on the ice has helped make her a worldwide star, and beloved in South Korea. According to The Atlantic, Kim has done commercials for coffee companies, beer, air conditioners, cars and financial services just to name a few. She has recorded songs with famous pop stars, and hosted her own skating variety show.
During her skating career, she consistently landed on Forbes list for top 10 highest-paid female athletes. At the peak of her career in 2014, Kim ranked No. 4 on the Forbes list earning $16.3 million, but just $300,000 came from prize money. Like most Olympic athletes, Kim made the majority of her money in endorsements and opportunities outside of skating. According to The Richest, Kim has a net worth of $21 Million.