Figure skating champion Kim Yu-na, who won the gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, plans to retire from competition after the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Kim made the announcement at a press conference at the National Training Center in Taeneung on Monday.
"When I was young, I had set the Vancouver Winter Games as my final destination, but now I wish to extend that final stop to the Winter Olympics in Sochi," Kim said. "I will give my best to make sure the last chapter [in my skating career] ends on a high."
After finishing second at the World Championships in Russia in the wake of the Vancouver Games, Kim has opted not to compete for the last 16 months while contemplating what to do with her future.
After she retires, she said she would like to try to become a member of the Athletes' Commission of the International Olympic Committee. The IOC selects a total of 15 Olympians from as many countries to join the commission for eight-year terms.
The only Korean Olympian to claim the honor so far is Moon Dae-sung, a taekwondo gold medalist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Moon's eight-year tenure ends in 2016, creating room for Korea to recommend a replacement. In order to be eligible, an athlete must have competed in the previous Olympics. This means Kim must compete in Sochi in order to stake her claim for IOC membership.
"After winning the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympic Games, I found it difficult to find a higher goal as a figure skater," she said, adding that the pressure began to get to her. "Fans' interest and love gave me a heavy sense of burden, and I longed to shed that burden -- even if just for a single day."
"But I have found new motivation while working with junior skaters at the training center for national athletes in Taenung," Kim added. "I thought I'd regret later if I gave up my career just because I feel the weight of all this responsibility, which compels me to try and be the best."
Kim will start preparing for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, which begin on Feb. 7, 2014, by getting in shape for the 2012-2013 figure skating competition season that gets under way in October. She will also compete in the Korean Figure Skating Championships for the first time in six years. Kim has yet to choose a coach.
Kim said she feels a little rusty after skipping a whole season of competitions. But fans are keen to see whether she can grab another Olympic gold medal in 2014. The only figure skaters to win gold medals at two or more consecutive Olympics are Sonja Henie of Norway (1928, 1932 and 1936) and Katarina Witt of the former East Germany (1984 and 1988).
Kim achieved the highest-ever score at an Olympic figure skating event in Vancouver (228.56 points) two years ago. During her absence, no other skater was able to surpass the 200-point level. Rivals Carolina Kostner of Italy, Mao Asada of Japan, Ashley Wagner of the U.S. and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia scored between 180 to 190 points.
"It has been almost two years since I last competed," Kim said. "I'm sorry it took me so long to make up my mind [to return] but I'll do my best [to achieve more sporting success]."