Extra! Korea

February 25, 2010

Kim Yu-na’s record, Joannie Rochette’s strength, and Mirai Nagasu’s bloody nose

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 2:50 pm

Last night was a very interesting one for figure skating. American Mirai Nagasu skated 11th out of 30 skaters. It’s difficult to place well in that situation because judges hold back on scores in case later skaters do well. She had a “funky landing” on a triple lutz and so downgraded a planned triple-triple into a triple-double. Then, she felt something running from her nose. Blood.

“You have to deal with what you’ve got,” she said. “Halfway through the program, I felt it running down my nose and just said, ‘Don’t stop, keep going.’

“I skated the best I can.”

When she heard about Nagasu’s bloody nose, [teammate Rachael] Flatt exclaimed, “Oh my gosh!”

“Man, that’s not fun at all,” she said.

Despite all that, she managed a personal best, which kept her on top until the 22nd girl skated. Not bad for someone who has never been to a senior-level world championships.

Her component scores were relatively low, all in the 6-point range, which is the way judges often penalize skaters whom they think have more dues to pay.

“I thought I could have skated better,” she said. “I’m happy that in my first Olympics, I didn’t fall yet.”

Mark my words, she is someone to watch in the years to come.

The aforementioned 22nd skater was Mao Asada, who beautifully skated her program, which included a triple axel, in combination no less, the first woman to do so at the Olympics. No wonder that, after finishing her program, she began jumping up and down like a giddly schoolgirl. It was the record for the highest score for a short program in Olympics history. Until the 23rd skater, that is.

That skater was Kim Yu-na. After finishing a flawless routine performed to a medley of James Bond music, she had earned the record for highest short program score. I guess triple lutz/triple toe trumps triple axel/double toe.

These three ladies stood at the top three positions until the sentimental favorite, Joannie Rochette, went on the ice. Skating in her home country, she would have had the crowd behind her regardless, but two days before, her mother suddenly passed away from a heart attack. No one would have blamed her if she had skated poorly, since psychology figures so importantly in figure skating. But she didn’t. Unbelievably, she skated beautifully, a personal best. As she waited for her scores, weeping, she mouthed what appeared to be the French word for mother, “Maman.” Many fans have sent condolences and good wishes via the Internet. One person wrote:

Your courage has been such an inspiration to me. I lost my best friend a few years ago, and I found comfort with skating. No matter how upset I was, I was able to put it all aside and skate all my emotions out on the ice. I watched your performance and cried the whole time — I was so proud of you — of your courage, your will and your tribute to your mother. She would be so proud. I know you still have your free program to skate, but no matter how you place, today I am proud to be Canadian because of you and your strength.

(emphasis mine. Me, too)

And also:

Joannie Rochette was so inspiring last night. I’ve never seen an arena filled with more love. We are all skating with you Jo! So proud of U — Evan Lysacek

In case you don’t know who Evan Lysacek is, he won the gold medal in the men’s competition.

Her rivals also expressed support.

Akiko Suzuki:

“What I think … is that skating right now for her is the best thing that she can do for her Mom. I think it’s great that she is skating and that she is doing her best right now. And I would like to pay my condolences.”

Laura Lepisto:

“I think the atmosphere was of course a little bit down at the practices. But I think the whole Canadian crowd is really supporting her

here.”

Julia Sebestyen:

“I know she’s a great skater and I feel so sorry for her. But that shows how great a skater is she, that she could skate in this situation very well.”

Kim Yu-na:

“I had a similar difficult situation about two years ago, a personal situation during a very important international competition. And I fully understand how she feels and I’m sure she’ll overcome the difficulties.”

Mao Asada:

“I feel really bad and I’m really sorry for her. I hope she can skate really well and does her best.”

Mirai Nagasu:

“I just applaud her for taking the ice. This is what the two of them [she and her mom] worked so hard for. I think she will do her best because her mom will be with her.”

So here are the standings after the short program:

1. Yu-Na Kim (Korea) — 78.50
2. Mao Asada (Japan) — 73.78
3. Joannie Rochette (Canada) — 71.36
4. Miki Ando (Japan) — 64.76
5. Rachael Flatt (USA) — 64.64
6. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 63.76
7. Carolina Kostner (France) — 63.02
8. Alena Leonova (Russia) — 62.14
9. Elene Gedevanishvili (Georgia) — 61.92
10. Laura Lepisto (Finland) — 61.36
11. Akiko Suzuki (Japan) — 62.02

So what’s next, in the free skate? Let’s listen to Michelle Kwan:

“What might be going through her (Asada’s) brain right now is that she has nothing to lose. She’s got to nail the two triple axels, thinking that (Kim) would do a clean program,” said Kwan.

How psychologically defeating is it to land a big jump like the triple axel and still place second?

“Well, that’s competition. Sometimes your best isn’t good enough. … It’s all what the judges are looking for, and apparently (Kim) is what the judges are

looking for when it comes to jump quality and spin quality and her edges and all that,” Kwan said.

And do the American women, in 5th and 6th place, have a chance to scramble onto the podium?

Flatt’s coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said he had spoken with Flatt about her medal chances. They have decided that a medal is possible — if someone ahead of them makes a mistake.

[ snip ]

“One person pops a jump and it’s an even playing field,” Zakrajsek said.

In figure skating parley, a “pop” is when a skater turns a planned triple into a single.

And here is a chart showing all of the top ladies’ personal best and worst free skate scores.

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Now it’s Hyundai’s turn to have a recall

Filed under: economics — extrakorea @ 1:02 pm

Any gloating by Hyundai over Toyota’s recent misfortunes should be muted now. Because of a mechanical problem with the front-door latches on the new 2011 Sonata sedan, Korea’s biggest auto maker announced a recall of 46,000 units in South Korea and 1,300 units across the U.S. Hyundai received complaints that, in certain unusual circumstances, the latch becomes stuck, after which the doors don’t close properly, but there were no reports of injuries or of accidents. The voluntary recall will become effective in March, and only affects cars that were built until December 6.

Korean women’s team disqualified in 3,000-meter relay short-track speedskating

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 12:31 pm

The Korean women’s team were the first across the finish line in the 3,000-meter short-track relay speedskating competition, earning a record fifth consecutive gold medal in the event. They celebrated on the ice with their nation’s flag while the 4th-place American team looked dejected.

However, after several minutes of discussion amongst the referees, the Koreans were disqualified for impeding a Chinese skater, giving the Chinese the gold and the Canadians and Americans silver and bronze, respectively.

“I don’t know what the reason is,” said team member Kim Min-Jung. “I don’t have any clue what the referee was saying. It doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Officials later said they were disqualified for clicking skates with China just after an exchange with five laps to go. Kim was in the lead when her left skate blade hit the right blade of China’s Sun Linlin.

It’s the American women’s first medal in the event since since 1994.

February 24, 2010

Figure skating favorites lost at the last three Olympics

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 2:31 am

There is no doubt that Kim Yu-na is the favorite to win the women’s figure skating gold medal. (Watch videos of the favorites of Sasha Cohen and Elvis Stojko here and here, respectively.)

However, it should be remembered that at the last three Olympics, the favorite didn’t win. In 1998, Michelle Kwan was defeated by Tara Lipinski. In 2002, Kwan, Sasha Cohen, and Irina Slutskaya* lost to Sarah Hughes. And at the last Olympics, Cohen and Slutskaya were bested again, this time by Shizuka Arakawa.

So, could Americans Rachael Flatt (17) and Mirai Nagasu (16) upset more senior ladies like Kim, Mao Asada, Miki Ando, and Carolina Kostner?** You’ll have to tune in to find out.

* Get your mind out of the gutter and stop making fun of her name.

** I would have included Joannie Rochette as a strong medal contender, but she must be an emotional wreck after the death of her mother on Sunday morning.

Are figure skating judges not rewarding difficulty sufficiently?

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 1:41 am

When Evan Lysacek defeated Evgeni Plushenko for the gold medal, there was controversy. Vladimir Putin sent Plushenko a telegram stating that his “silver was as good as gold” and that he had “performed the most accomplished program on the Vancouver ice.” Two-time Olympic silver medallist Elvis Stojko said that he was in shock and wrote a column called “The night they killed figure skating.” (You can also see a video here.) In it, he describes the reasons that he feels that Plushenko should have won the gold, including the fact he did a quadruple jump and Lysacek did not.

Because of it, the sport took a step backward. Brian Boitano did the same thing, technically, in 1988. There are junior skaters who can skate that same program.

[ snip ]

With that type of scoring, you don’t have to risk it. You can play it safe and win gold.

In what other sports do you have to hold back in order to win?

[ snip ]

Figure skating gets no respect because of outcomes like this. More feathers, head-flinging and so-called step sequences done at walking speed – that’s what the system wants.

I am going to watch hockey, where athletes are allowed to push the envelope. A real sport.

Figure skating has always suffered from an identity crisis. It’s a sport that sometimes looks like a dance recital. How do you judge artistry? And should it allow you to defeat someone who has shown more athleticism?

However, in some subsequent columns by other writers, the reasons for Lysacek’s victory have been explained:

* Skaters receive a score for artistry, technical difficulty, and execution. The two skaters received the same score for artisty. Plushenko got a higher score for technical difficulty, but a lower score for execution, since some of his landing were a little wobbly.

* Skaters receive more points if they put their jumps in the latter part of their program (“backloading”), since that requires more cardiovascular conditioning. Lysacek did so, and so received the bonus.

So, will this affect Kim Yu-na? No. Plushenko came out of retirement to compete at the Olympics. When he and his Russian handlers noticed things like backloading in the points system, they chose to complain about it rather than change his program. Kim, on the other hand, obviously knows how to work with the system for maximum results, since it’s the same one that she’s being winning one competition after another with.

February 22, 2010

Kim Yu-na to skate 23rd; tragedy strikes Joannie Rochette

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 3:06 pm

Kim Yu-na will be the 23rd out of 30 skaters in the ladies’ figure skating short program, which takes place on Tuesday, February 23rd.

21 – Laura Lepisto (Finland)

22 – Mao Asada (Japan)

23 – Kim Yu-na (South Korea)

24 – Akiko Suzuki (Japan)

25 – Alena Leonova (Russia)

26 – Joannie Rochette (Canada)

27 – [I’m not sure but I’m guessing Hungary’s Júlia Sebestyén]

28 – Rachael Flatt (USA)

29 – Carolina Kostner (Italy)

30 – Miki Ando (Japan)

Kim and Mao Asada expressed relief that they weren’t to skate last. Miki Ando, who will do so, said that while she usually doesn’t mind skating last, she wishes she weren’t at the Olympics. Ando also noted that the favorite doesn’t always win the gold medal, citing how, at the last Olympics, Shizuka Arakawa came out of nowhere to defeat Irina Slutskaya and Sasha Cohen for the gold medal. Kim’s coach, Brian Orser, knows this very well. He once went into the Olympics the reigning world champion, and lost the gold medal by the slimmest of margins.

Orser has said that if Kim performs without any mistakes, she’s unbeatable … but that’s a big “if.” Having said that, I think that even if she makes some small errors, she’ll probably find her way onto some position on the podium. She’d probably have to pancake herself, spreadeagled, onto the ice to finish out of the medals altogether. I think that there are about six or seven girls who could find themselves with a medal.

One of those young women suffered a tragedy this past Sunday. After traveling to Vancouver from Montreal to watch her daughter compete at the Olympics, Therese Rochette, Joannie Rochette’s mother, died of a heart attack. Incredibly, Joannie still intends to compete. Kim Yu-na sent her condolences to her grieving competitor.

“I just heard before practice. I just hope that she can get through this quickly and get back into the competition.”

February 21, 2010

Kim Yu-na gave $100,000 to Haitian relief efforts but didn’t tell her coach

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 5:13 am

I knew that figure skating star Kim Yu-na is nice, but I didn’t know this.

Recently she donated $100,000 to Haitian relief efforts. “I just know that she was touched by this disaster,” says [coach Brian] Orser. Kim never told Orser about the donation. “I read it in the newspaper,” he said. “It’s pretty remarkable.”

Koreans win gold and silver; Apolo Ohno becomes most decorated American winter Olympian

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 4:55 am

At the Vancouver Olympics’ men’s 1,000-meter short-track speedskating competition, Koreans Lee Jung-su* and Lee Ho-suk** (no relation, as far as I know) won the gold and silver medals, respectively. Apolo Ohno won the bronze to become America’s most decorated winter Olympian ever. He has seven medals, as opposed to the six held by Bonnie Blair, the previous record-holder. He has also won the most medals for any short track speedskater, regardless of nation.

* Yes, that Lee Jung-su, who acted like a douche-nozzle after winning a previous gold medal.

** Yes, that Lee Ho-suk, who wiped himself and a teammate out when he decided to go for a gold instead of settling for a bronze.

February 20, 2010

John Park makes it into American Idol’s top 24

Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 5:36 am

American Idol contestant John Park has lived up to some people’s expectations (despite the skepticism of others) by making it into the top 24. Congratulations are in order.

February 19, 2010

Apolo Ohno: “Most Reviled Athlete in South Korea”

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 12:51 pm

ABC News has an article* that does a pretty good summary of the brouhaha surrounding Apolo Ohno, and includes some information that even I wasn’t aware of.

One company once sold toilet paper emblazoned with Ohno’s face: Ohno joyfully winning the gold, Ohno kissing his medal, Ohno laughing.

Oh, that is awesome. If I had known about that, I would have bought several rolls and sent them to my family. I hope Ohno wins every a gold medal in every competition he has left, so that they print more.

One video game features an Ohno character you can shoot in the head, and to call something “Ohnolike” is to deride it as a dirty trick.

Hey, that’s not nice. And neither is this.

Thousands of angry anti-Ohno e-mails shut down the U.S. Olympic Committee server for nine hours.

[ snip ]

The animosity toward Ohno grew so heated that the entire American short-track team withdrew from a World Cup event held in South Korea in 2003, citing death threats against Ohno. In 2005, the athlete traveled in South Korea, reportedly under the guard of police.

Here is why Lee Jung-su is a douche-nozzle:

Incensed gold medalist Lee Jung-su criticized Ohno as “too aggressive” in a post-race news conference.

“Ohno didn’t deserve to stand on the same medal platform as me,” he told Yonhap. “I was so enraged that it was hard for me to contain myself during the victory ceremony.”

He has the freakin’ Olympic gold medal. What to do? Thank his family for their support? Express his joy? Convey his gratitude to his home country, which sent him to represent them? No, he takes a cheap shot at the guy who came in second. Douche-nozzle.

The portrayal of Ohno is, in my view, honest and balanced.

He also admitted he had been hoping to capitalize on a South Korean mistake.

“At the end of the race, I was hoping for another disqualification, kind of like what happened in Salt Lake City,” Ohno said.

Still, Ohno later offered his congratulations to Lee in a Twitter post. “Wow Koreans are strong as always,” he added.

This part made me laugh.

But at least one blogger hopes to see him fall flat on his face: “He should fall down on the ice and have (figure skater) Kim Yu-na land on his disgusting face after she performs a triple axel.”

Why would such an extremely violent description of murderous intent make me laugh? Because Kim Yu-na doesn’t do the triple axel, Mao Asada does. Kids, do your homework before getting your hate on. Oh, snap!

* Part One, Part Two, Part Three

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