We all know that the Olympics can cause some tension when rooting for your home country, but I have never seen a competition between two ice skaters publicized so much by the media. The two skaters I am talking about are Japan’s Mao Asada and South Korea’s Yu Na Kim. Japan may not care that much about the Olympics, but they sure care about not losing to South Korea. Seeing/hearing the results of the short program caused a lot of interesting reactions around schools. One of my ALT friends working up in Hokkaido explained things to me like this:
Mao was good but my kids reaction to her getting beat by Yu-Na was even better (some of them smacked her face on the tv lol). Pretty much after Kokubo crashed they said fuck it and turned it off, but once Mao was in it stayed on and we watched during kyushoku and 5th period (home room).
To be honest, I thought both of their programs were great. I personally liked Yu-na’s more because she is a better artistic skater than Mao, so it is more “fun” to watch her skate.
Truth of the matter is, these two girls have been competing against each other ever since their debuts.
Both skaters are popular in both countries. Yu-na is also popular in Canada, because she trains there. Techinically and artistically, Yu-na skates better than Mao, or so the ISU judges show in the scores. Yu-na is also more consistent with her routines and tends to have neater elements. Mao, on the other hand, holds the record forthe highest combined score for ladies’ singles: 199.**. Mao allegedly has underrotated, prerotated, flutzes and two-footed jumps. But of course, this doesn’t mean Mao isn’t a good skater. I tend to like the step sequence of her ‘sprograms more than Yu-na’s. The girls are pretty even no matter how you look at it though.
The girls, as of last year, would appear on TV together for interviews were is appears as though they are friends. I read somewhere that the way the girls communicate with each other is by speaking English. There are also pictures of the two of them taking purikura together on the internet. However, while it does appear as if there was some sort of friendship between the two girls, it is clear that things have changed as of late and I believe that the media is to blame.
A little over a year ago, there was an incident in which it was claimed that Yu-na said Japanese skaters were trying to sabotage her skating practice. Yuna kim “suggested” (see below) that Japanese skaters intentionally obstructed her warm-ups, and SBS publicized it dramatically. Then, although the Korean Skating Federation announced that Yuna Kim didn’t mention any specific country, the Korean zealots spread the video clips of SBS on YouTube and accused Japanese skaters of intentionally impending Yuna Kim’s warm up, where we can find full of racist comments against Mao Asada. Likewise, the Japanese media jumped on her words and started broadcasting that Yu-na verbally attacked Japanese ice skaters and even mentioned a blog post Yu-na Kim made in 2005 that publicly stated her wish that her greatest rival – Japanese skater Mao Asada – should have fallen down while skating at a competition.
There is also immense pressure on both girls from their countries to “defeat” the other one to bring “honor” and “pride” to their country. In an article I found about Yu-na a woman said that the ice skater is Korea’s only hope to make the country proud. Another article explained that Japan and Korea are not friendly because Japan invaded Korea before World War II and people are still mad about it. Therefore, Koreans get very, very upset if they don’t beat Japan by a lot, in every sport.
I am just going to quote another article her that pretty much sums up everything:
Asada said she and Kim were friendly with each other because they had been competitors for so long, starting as novice skaters. They occasionally chat in English, she said. She welcomes their rivalry.
“It can be motivating to have Kim Yu-na in the competition because I change that pressure into power,” Asada said.
Kim said she and Asada were neither friends nor enemies — but somewhere in between.
“Someday, if we retire, we’ll be able to meet more comfortably,” she said.
Brian Orser, the two-time Olympic silver medalist who coaches Kim, counsels Kim about the rivalry, from experience.
He and Brian Boitano competed against each other in the 1980s in what became known as the Battle of the Brians. It climaxed when Orser finished second to Boitano at the 1988 Calgary Games in Orser’s home country.
Orser was devastated, but now says the experience gives him insight on helping Kim handle pressure.
“A rivalry is good for the sport, but I like to keep it friendly because that’s how I was with Brian,” he said. “When a rivalry becomes bitter, it’s a problem, so I tell that to Yu-na. She feels a huge responsibility to win, and that includes beating Mao. She is aware of what people expect of her.”
I feel bad that there is so much internationally pressure on these two girls in what has to be one of the most beautiful and graceful sports on the planet. While I am sure that there are some negative feelings between the two girls due to this pressure, I hope that they are able to overcome it all and go back to being the cheerful girls who supported each other.