Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yuna has many reasons to love L.A., most notably because she won the 2009 World Championship at Staples Center while building up to her gold-medal performance at Vancouver in February.
The 20-year-old from South Korea likes it here so much that she has begun training at the East West Ice Palace in Artesia, a rink owned by Torrance native Michelle Kwan, a two-time Olympic medalist, five-time world champion and nine-time U.S. champion.
Kim will make the rink her base at least for the next month while she practices for the All That Skate LA show Oct. 2 and 3 at Staples Center, in which she and Kwan will be featured alongside a stellar collection of Olympic and world champions. If Kim likes the conditions enough she might stay even longer because of the availability of rinks and quality coaches here, said Koo Dong Hoi, an executive with the agency that represents her.
Kim was surrounded by Korean TV and print journalists Tuesday at Burbank's Pickwick arena during a news conference to promote next month's skating extravaganza. That's nothing new. "In Korea, she is much more than a movie star," Koo said.
That constant attention might lead Kim to take up residence here for a while.
"I was training for about four years in Canada," she said through a translator, her only reference to her departure from her previous training base in Toronto and breakup with Coach Brian Orser. "My coach and where I am going to be training is not decided definitely yet. But I’m here for the show and also find out the atmosphere and environment of training.
"L.A. has a large Korean American community and I also won a world championship here and trained a little bit when I was young here. So I’m going to make those decisions slowly, step by step. Since L.A. is a city that gave me great support for skating, I think I’m going to be very comfortable and enjoy the great energy in the city."
Training here, she said, "I'm going to have a comfortable environment and plan out what's next."
Check www.latimes.com/sports later for an update on Kwan's life after competitive figure skating and how she's preparing to make an impact in another field: international diplomacy.
-- Helene Elliott