March 24, 2010 11:20
Olympic champion Kim Yu-na on Tuesday had her first official practice in Turin, Italy, for the 2010 International Skating Union World Figure Skating Championships this weekend. Kim, who left her training base in Toronto on Monday, aims to defend her world championship title for a second year in a row.
◆ Another Showdown Against Asada
At the Vancouver Olympics last month, Kim set record scores since a new judging system was introduced in 2004, with 78.50 points in the short program, 150.06 points in the free skate, and a total combined score of 228.56 points.
Mao Asada of Japan won the silver with more than 200 points as well, but the gap between her and Kim was huge. With bronze medalist Joannie Rochette of Canada not competing in this season's world championships, the battle for the gold is down to the icons from Korea and Japan.
Asada has been focused on training since the Olympics, not appearing at events in Japan, and has vowed to beat Kim's score. She lost to Kim in all four events that they both competed in from the 2009 Four Continents Championships until the Vancouver Olympics. If she fails to win this time, the rivalry between Kim and her might not hold up anymore. "I want to try to do all I can" to defeat Kim at the World Championships, Asada said on Tuesday.
◆ Kim's Last Competition?
After winning the gold medal at the Olympics, Kim insinuated that she may retire, saying she has "achieved everything." Later she took a more cautious approach, saying she would focus on the World Championships and then think about her future direction afterward.
It is uncertain whether Kim will continue to compete or turn professional, but experts say that to keep her marketability high it would be better to remain in competition. Kim's brand value soared with her winning the Olympic gold. Before the Olympics she earned up to W1 billion per endorsement, but now money is not even an issue. Kim's management agency IB Sports has reportedly decided to keep the option of renewing contracts with existing endorsement partners, but choose new endorsements only from foreign luxury brands consummate with her image.
◆ Decision on Keeping Management Agency
Kim will return to Seoul after the World Championships on March 31 and perform in an ice show for three days from April 16 at Olympic Park's Gymnastics Stadium. With the ice show, her contract with IB Sports will expire. The management agency is naturally eager to renew its contract with the biggest sports icon in Korea. Kim is thought to be capable of earning W15 to 20 billion a year through endorsements and other activities.
IB Sports has based a representative in Toronto to support Kim since six months before the Olympics. The chemistry between the company and Kim is said to be very good, so many expect the contract will be renewed. However, it all depends on what decisions Kim makes about her future after the championships.
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