Sunday, March 02, 2014

Kim Yuna's Last Bow

Dear Korean,

I call upon you in a time of need. The Queen has been defeated and many are crying 'foul'. Time and time again, you have guided us, your loyal readers, through the fog of media bias to the facts that help us make sense in these trying times. In your infinite wisdom, do you see a home field advantage, or was the Queen being too conservative in her fight towards the gold?

Justin E.

Put it this way: one has to believe in some really implausible series of events to believe that Adelina Sotnikova won her gold medal fair and square. Out of the many articles that covered women's figure skating in Sochi, The Wire's coverage was the most definitive. There are many, many factors to which the article points, but three factors stand out the most.
  • Sotnikova's previous personal best in free-skating was nearly 20 points below her Olympics score. That personal best was set only a month before the Olympics.
  • Sotnikova's Olympics free-skating score was so high that, had she not made a mistake in one of her jumps, it would have set the world record (which Yuna Kim set in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.) This does not pass the "laugh test." Even if one completely ignored Sotnikova's flub, her program was not superior to Kim's program in Vancouver.
  • It has been said that Sotnikova performed a more technically difficult routine than Kim, because Sotnikova executed one additional triple jump. But Mao Asada, 2010 silver medalist, executed one more triple jump than Sotnikova and was flawless in her free skate. Yet Mao scored lower than Sotnikova.
So, in order for one to believe that Sotnikova won her gold medal fair and square, you have to believe: (1) Sotnikova managed to improve by nearly 20 points in a month; (2) Sotnikova's performance, but for the mistaken landing, would have been the best free skating in the history of women's figure skating; (3) Sotnikova beat Kim because she did more jumps than Kim, and Sotnikova beat Mao because she presented better artistry than Mao. One can believe all of the above, sure. One can also believe that Barry Bonds's head size doubled because Bonds just worked out a lot, or the Hand of God mysteriously appeared above Diego Maradona's head in the 1986 World Cup.

(source)

But enough of this. As Yuna Kim retires after this Olympics, the Korean would rather honor and celebrate her remarkable career. Because Kim is so unusually graceful in her performance, the words "utter dominance" do not naturally come to mind when one thinks of Yuna Kim. But wrap your head around this one: in her 12-year skating career, Yuna Kim never fell below third place in any of the competition she entered. That means that Kim medaled in every single game that she ever entered since she was 12 years old. And those games include six world championships and two Olympics.

Never in the century of women's figure skating history was there an achievement like this one. This puts Yuna Kim on the same plane as the greatest winners in sports, right up there with the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, and so on. And we were all simply lucky to have witnessed such an incredible dominance, presented in the most beautiful form imaginable.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

26 comments:

  1. Come on, Putin. Rig the gold medal for one of your skaters, OR take over the Crimea. Pick ONE. You can't have both.

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  2. yes, the judging was rigged but Yuna Did play it too conservativly. she could have made the rigging much more difficult if she was more aggressive, but she didn't.

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  3. If she is the Tiger Woods of figure skating, does that mean that Korean newspapers are being idiots by keep going on about how Mao has been her "rival"? It's very sad. She doesn't get the proper respect from her own countrymen.

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    Replies
    1. Actually, Mao's career overlaps nicely with Phil Mickelson's early years...

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    2. Mao is her "rival" because she is the best Japanese skater. If Mao were from any other country, the Korean press wouldn't be comparing the two.

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    3. That's true TK but how often do you see blacks comparing Tiger to Mickelson? That would be something like sacrilege and for good reason!

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    4. It's not the Korean press, but the Japanese press that are being idiots by touting Asada Mao as Kim Yuna's fated rival. If their positions had been reversed, the J press would not be trying so hard to set them up on the same pedestal. Not by a long shot.

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    5. Sam, you obviously don't read korean news, at least not in the original korean version.

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  4. Mark this in your calendar, folks: June 17-- South Korea vs. Russia in the World Cup! If South Korea scores, will they do a goal celebration like Ahn Jung-hwan's 2002 speed skating pose after he scored against the U.S. to avenge the Apolo Ohno thing? Will the whole team stretch their legs backwards over their heads a la Yuna's signature move? Please oh God please this has to happen!!!

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    Replies
    1. Legs behind their heads? Sounds like an injury waiting to happen.

      I hope they just jump in the air and spin. Like, everyone on the team. That'd be great.

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  5. For an interesting (if obsessive) mathematical look at this, see http://mydearkorea.blogspot.com/.

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    Replies
    1. Here is a breakdown on how and why Yuna lost to the other girl from the New York Times from an American coach:

      http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/02/20/sports/olympics/womens-figure-skating.html?_r=0

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  6. The grace and artistry that Kim Yuna exhibits on the ice has never been equaled. She remains the queen of the ice.

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  7. Russia's media take: Sotnikova's program was specifically designed to milk the current judging system for all the possible points, while Yuna's program was not.

    It's comparable to Plushenko's controversial silver in Vancouver: his program was not tailored to the scoring system in effect at the time, while his American rival has milked it to the max.

    The element scoring has changed since Vancouver, partially due to Plushenko's controversy, BTW. His Vancouver program would be scored quite a bit higher under the current system.

    So the Russians have learned their lesson, did their research and went after all the composition brownie points... I can see the logic in this, but Sotnikova's sudden 20 point "improvement" from only a month ago would frankly be an amazing feat.

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    Replies
    1. Also, as TK has already mentioned, this resoning is obviated by Mao Asada's (one more triple jump than Sotnikova) score. Some have pointed out how embarrasing it will be for Sotnikova and the judges at Sochi when her scores fall back to a more reasonable range in future competitions outside of Russia.

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    2. Well, Mao Asada did fall on one jump and got a deduction for that, and it was not just the jumps that mattered for the points; there were some "point rewarding" transitions and combos coming in and out of the jumps that that Sotnikova did and the others didn't, and her jump in the 2nd half of the program apparently gave her a 10% bonus, etc.

      I watched a Russian TV special (I'm trilingual) where they broke it down to the elements trying to explain to the public how Stolnikova won...Though nobody has even touched on that 20-point gap. Sotnikova did very well on her skate, but she must have skated a great program to even make the Olympics team, and yet she was never scored this high!

      Not sure if she skated the same program in the Russian Championship, but maybe YouTube has the answers... it would be curious to see and compare these two skates.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. There was a definite home field advantage, anyone can see that. The judges were clearly propping up the Russian skaters throughout all of the events (besides the mens event obviously) and as long as the Russian ladies were staying upright, they were going to place 1st and 2nd.

    Anyway, Yuna Kim has nerves of steel. Four clean performances at two back-to-back Olympics. Incredible how she handles pressure.

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  9. I found a part of the Russian commentary on YouTube, the same I saw on my Russian TV cable channel:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_f8el3MB5c

    The guy is basically saying that the jump was scored higher because Sotnikova jumped higher than Yuna and something about Yuna landing the jump sooner... Do the shorter skaters have a disadvantage, then? Does the "time in the air" matter so much?

    Here is Sotnikova's Russian Nationals free skate, with 73.38 for the component score:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K8b7cHXyWc

    This free skate was on 26.12.2013, also in Sochi...testing the venue? The commentator kept stressing that Sotnikova has the most difficult combo possible in her program :)

    But the side by side video below has me confused... I am buying the "difficulty" argument now, but the skate above looks almost identical to the Olympics skate below. Even the error is in the same place, but check out the final point tally, 75.54:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8NIHBJBAqU

    I don't see a 6-point lead on Yuna there. I do see Sotnikova jumping higher, I'll giver her that, but not all of 6 points higher!

    The morale of the story -- Korea should have submitted a protest, they had a chance. It happened for the Americans in Salt Lake City, after all.

    But I think Yuna herself would not want to make an issue out of it, it's just not her way. She was so graceful in defeat... unlike certain Miss Wagner we know.

    Ugh!!! I should get Sochi out of my system now; it was Putin's $50 billion "Potemkin village", and now he yanked the wold back to the reality in one move.



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  11. The whole 20 point differential between her Sochi performance and one a few months earlier bit is way overdone. It was the exact same program and she got 20 points less than she got in Sochi (though she also won that competition). What does it mean? It's obvious that the competition judging criteria (and judges) differs in that competition vs. the Sochi one. You've all seen the Kim Yuna's and Sotnikova's performances - do you think Sotnikova should have gotten 15 points less?

    Another question - do you think Kim Yuna would have gotten her Sochi score in the same competition where Sotnikova got 20 points less?

    I think that it all comes down to the fact that the scores in the olympic events which are scored by judges are being ramped up.

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