Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hail the Queen

All rise and applaud the magnificent Kim Yu-Na. Kim who ? You could be forgiven for asking that if you aren’t into winter sports. But if you have been following the Vancouver Winter Olympics, you cannot , but be mesmerized by the story of the wonderful Kim.

Kim Yu-Na is arguably the most famous athlete in South Korea. All of 19 years old, she’s dubbed “Queen Yu-Na” and is a superstar in her country. She was the overwhelming favourite to win the women's figure skating event in the Olympics. A nation’s hopes was riding on her shoulders – South Korea had never won anything in the Winter Olympics apart from speedskating. They are having a great Olympics, winning well beyond their expectations, and their Queen was their brightest hope. But her long time rival Mao Asada of Japan was a formidable threat. And the emotions and the crowd were with Joannie Rochette, the Canadian, who lost her mother only a couple of days before. This is an event where America has traditionally dominated – no South Korean had ever won before.

Kim came out and stunned the world. She smashed the world record and almost delivered perfection on ice. These are sporting moments that transcend history. Like Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 in Montreal. Like Usain Bolt’s 100m in Beijing. Like the tied test between Australia and the West Indies in 1960. If you can get to see the video, do it – commercial rights being what they are, we are unlikely to see it in the public domain, but you can see the short program she did the day before at (sorry Net Nanny has become very painful these days)

There are a small bunch of people who carry enormous expectations and the weight of their whole nation on their shoulders. Its incredible how they do it. Like Cathy Freeman of Australia in the Sydney Olympics, Like Michael Phelps in Beijing, Like Brazil’s football team whenever it steps on the pitch, Like Sachin Tendulkar of India for the last 20 years. There must be some incredible greatness in them that they carry such a weight and still pull it off.

This Winter Olympics in Vancouver has been a great success. So many stories that make your heart go thump-thump. Today is the men’s ice hockey final . This sport is a religion in Canada. Their team is expected to win every time. They are in the finals. And they meet a traditional rival in the US. The US have never won in the Olympics outside of their own country – but this team is in such roaring form that they are the favourites. They’ve already beaten the Canadians in the preliminary rounds. But the finals is a different matter altogether. It will be one cracker of a game.

But even amongst all the drama, this Olympics will be remembered for the sheer poetry on ice that Kim Yu-Na created. There are some times when you just revel in a sublime sporting moment. This was one such moment. All hail the Queen !