Figure skater Kim Yu-Na is so good she can gild her lily
Five random thoughts on another unseasonably cold mid-October day here in Chicago:
1. It took me less than three minutes to realize that Kim Yu-Na of South Korea should simply be presented the 2010 Olympic women's figure skating gold medal right now.
Kim's short program in today's Grand Prix series opener -- the Trophy Bompard in Paris -- was nothing less than brilliant. Skating to a musical medley from James Bond films -- including, appropriately, "Goldfinger," in which the villain loves only gold -- the reigning world champion was sassy, speedy and just plain scintillating.
Kim was utterly in another league from a field that included 2008 world champion Mao Asada of Japan; Caroline Zhang of the United States; Yukari Nakano of Japan (who three times has been in the top five at worlds); and two-time European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy, who sadly reprised her stumblebum free skate performance from the 2009 worlds.
The judges were as dazzled by Kim, 19, as I was, giving her a score of 76.08, second only to the record short program total of 76.12 she rolled up at the 2009 worlds. Were it not for a wobbly leg on one of her spiral positions, Kim would have been virtually perfect . As it is, she has a lead of more than 16 points over runner-up Nakano. She opened with a huge triple-triple combination. And her score would have been worth third in the men's event.
One short program does not a season make. But this one made it clear that Kim at her best will be impossible to beat, and Kim at 80% of her best still is better than anyone else. Athlete, artist -- this young woman is breathtaking on the ice. Barring injury or early retirement, she can be the greatest women's skater in history.
2. Good for NBC and its subsidiary, Universal Sports, in deciding to televise (even on a delayed basis) the Grand Prix series events outside the United States. (NBC already had a contract for live broadcasts of Skate America.) Broadcasts begin Friday night on Universal. Click this link for the complete story and schedule.
3. Only three cities met Friday's applicant deadline for the 2018 Winter Olympics. One of the three, Annecy, France, is wasting its time, which leaves Munich, Germany, and Pyeongchang, South Korea, in the race. After close defeats in the 2010 and 2014 bidding, Pyeongchang looks like the early favorite, but Munich gained hope when Madrid lost to Rio in the final round of the 2016 Summer Games bidding, because there won't be three straight Olympics in Europe. The International Olympic Committee will choose the 2018 host in July 2011.
4. Guy Drut of France was one of the whiny IOC members who complained about inconvenience (waiting on buses, early wake-up call) caused by security around President Obama's visit to Copenhagen. "It dampened the enthusiasm of a good number of us,'' Drut told the French sports newspaper L'Equipe.
I can't let Drut's petulance pass without pointing out a bit of his personal history. It is apropos of nothing how entitled some IOC members feel -- even those who aren't even entitled to call themselves honest.
Drut received a 15-month suspended sentence in 2005 after being found guilty of benefiting from a fictitious job at a construction company. Then-French President Jacques Chirac gave Drut a presidential pardon three years ago so he could keep his place on the IOC, from which Drut had been provisionally suspended.
Drut, the 1976 Olympic high hurdles champion, was a member of the IOC commission that evaluated the 2016 bids -- proof that the IOC lets no bad deed go unrewarded.
5. While my Olympic attention necessarily was focused on the ill-fated Chicago bid, one of the country's most successful recent Olympians, fencer Mariel Zagunis, added another title to her resume: world champion in saber. The ex-Notre Damer won sabre gold medals in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
-- Philip Hersh
Above photo: Kim Yu-Na wins the short program in Paris. Credit: Francois Mori / Associated Press.
Below: Mariel Zagunis after winning the 2009 world fencing title in individual saber two weeks ago. Credit: Kaan Soyturk / Associated Press.