Not sure if this is a bummer because people have very mixed feelings about the Korea’s marching together at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games. On one hand, it’s very symbolic and hopeful that the Korea’s could someday be united. However, do you want to deal with one of the worst dictators in the world and play nice? Quite the dilemma.
Previous to this year, Korean athletes had marched together at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, extending a tradition that started at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney and continued at the 2004 Athens Olympics. However, the two teams did not march together in Beijing in 2008.
South Korea has 46 athletes entered for the Vancouver Games. North Korea has two: one each in figure skating and speed skating.
Everywhere I look, there’s a lot of articles about woman’s figure skating champion Kim Yu Na from her chances to winning the gold medal to being the top-earning athlete entering Vancouver. With the Winter Olympics about to start this week, she’s headlining so many articles because she’s intriguing on many fronts. Woman’s ice skating is traditionally the crown event at the winter Olympics and also because she comes into this event with so much pressure. She enters the Olympics with the weight of South Korea on her shoulders to win the country’s first ever gold medal in Olympic figure skating. Further heightening the pressure from South Korea is the fact that her #1 competitor is from Japan, Mao Asada, and we know about the very heated rivalry between these two countries. Unfortunately, Olympic figure skating has not been to kind to reigning world champions who enter the Olympic games. Brian Orser and Michelle Kwan are the faces of failed Olympic bids for the gold medal as both were very heralded reigning world champs. Coincidentally, Brian Orser is the coach for Kim Yu Na and it’s his first time coaching anybody. The New York Times released their second video about Kim Yu Na this week and it describes her relationship with Brian Orser and how she’s been transformed by him from a tactician to an elegant skating beauty. Kim Yu Na was this very raw talent when Brian Orser decided to coach her 4 years ago. She was typical of Korean athletes back then: win by practice and repetition. However, Brian released her creative side and let her express herself. What Brian wants is the judges and the crowds to cry for Kim Yu Na’s performance. So it begs the question, will we cry because she fails to win the gold medal or cry because her performance was so breathtaking?
For the full video on Kim Yu Na and her coach Brian Orser, go to the New York Times.
Hold the presses but the New York Times did a feature on Kim Yu Na, the top ranked women’s figure skater entering the Winter Olympics, and they didn’t write anything dumb like how Koreans like tall people with eyelid surgery and thin calves. Nice! With the Winter Olympics fast approaching, the New York Times is doing short video pieces on athletes and they’re trying to understand the nuances of their respective sport. Kim Yu Na and her coach Brian Orser are featured in the “Inside the Action” video this week as they discuss the execution of the very difficult triple lutz-triple toe loop. The New York Times doesn’t allow embeds so you’ll have to go to their website to check out the 2 minute video.
The Winter Olympics starts up this weekend and you know you’ll be glued to your television for the next couple of weeks. Time Magazine came out with it’s top athletes to watch out for during the Winter Olympics and Kim Yu Na is one of the featured athletes. She is South Korea’s biggest hope in winning a gold medal figure skating because she enters the games as the current world champion and therefore the unofficial favorite to win a gold medal. However, we all know about past Olympics and the disheartening falls of figure skating favorites. Will Kim Yu Na be able to handle the weight of South Korea on her shoulders or will she succumb to the pressures of living up to massive expectations?
Taekwondo, archery, short track — these are the niche sports in which South Korea tends to dominate. But a bright-light event such as figure skating? You bet, ever since Kim, 19, began racking up championships and setting records with the highest-scoring performances, quietly making her case to be the Olympic gold-medal favorite. Steady and consistent almost to the point of appearing robotic, Kim rarely slips on the ice — a skill that has served her well in the points-based judging system. She’s the current world champion and trains in Toronto but is hard to miss in Seoul — her image adorns buses, stores and cosmetics counters. When it comes to performing, the unflappable teen always delivers; Kim stood at the top of the podium in every competition she entered this season.
Anthony Kim made a guest appearance on The Jay Leno show on Monday night to teach Jessica Alba how to putt. First it’s pretty cool that Jay Leno referred to AK as his friend and he was on national television, and secondly, it was really cool that AK got to cozy on up to Jessica Alba and teach her how to putt. She almost made the first putt after Anthony’s instruction but she left it a little short though it was on line to go in. It was then AK’s turn and he quickly set up and stroked a power putt up the ramp into the buddha statue for a hole in one. Sure he’s a professional, but there had to be some nerves putting in front of a national television audience on a contrived hole. Check it out below!
University of Maryland basketball player Choi Jin-Soo is doing what many college basketball players have done previously and that is leave school to go professional. Choi Jin-Soo is entering the NBA…. uh, no. Correction: He’s leaving an NCAA Division 1 basketball program from one of the elite conferences (ACC) to play in the ultra-competitive professional league of the Korean Basketball League (KBL). That’s just a notch above the Korean church summer leagues that do fund raisers. He cited the difficulties of studying and playing basketball. I don’t know what his major was but he could’ve chosen what many solid student-athletes excel in and that’s the ever popular “communications” major.
“It is really hard to do both ― play basketball and study,” Choi told Korean basketball magazine Jump Ball.
“Studying causes me a lot of stress. I only want to play basketball, I don’t want to have to think about studying,” added Choi.
Good luck Choi Jin-Soo. You’ll be missed at Maryland. You could have been the second Korean person to play in the NBA.
Y.E. Yang made a big splash this year by doing the impossible and that was take down Tiger Woods (when Tiger wasn’t with a lady of the night). When we mean the impossible, we’re referring to his unbelievable defeat of Tiger Woods at a major golf championship: The PGA Championship at Hazeltine. To put this into perspective, Tiger Woods had never lost a major championship when leading in the final round of a major golf tournament. However, it was Y.E. Yang of all Korean golfers (Anthony Kim, K.J. Choi) that stared down the greatest golfer of our generation and maybe of all time, and executed one of the greatest shots on the final hole (72nd) of a major golf championship. He perfectly landed a hybrid shot that set up the birdie to bring down the hammer on Tiger Woods on the 18th hole. No one east of Hawai’i would have predicted that Y.E. Yang would be the first Korean golfer to win a major golf tournament and no one in their right mind would have bet on Y.E. Yang beating Tiger head to head in the final group of a golf major. Y.E. Yang is #7 on our top ten list of most influential Korean-Americans because he not only broke through to victory on one of golf’s biggest stage, but he showed the whole world that Tiger was beatable and that you could go toe to toe with the greatest golfer in the world. And now the rest of the golf world knows that you can beat Tiger (on the golf course ;). He made believers out of everyone!
Shin Soo-Choo was selected for the Cleveland Indians’ Tribe’s Man of the Year award. This honor is an individual award that is voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Pretty darn good because Shin Soo-Choo is a position player and not a pitcher, where many Asian players are usually slotted for on Major League Baseball teams. His stats are pretty impressive for just his first year in the big leagues and hopefully he’ll get better.
The BBWAA selected Shin-Soo Choo as the Tribe’s Man of the Year for the consistent production he provided in the Indians lineup. Utility infielder Jamey Carroll, who is now a free agent, was saluted as the Frank Gibbons/Steve Olin Good Guy Award winner.
Choo is a first-time winner of the Man of the Year honor. He batted .300 with 20 homers, 38 doubles and 86 RBIs in his first full big league season.
Asdrubal Cabrera was the runner-up for the award in the BBWAA voting.
Carroll won the Good Guy Award for the leadership he provided in the Tribe clubhouse and his approachability and accessibility with the media, in good times and bad. Travis Hafner and Aaron Laffey were also nominated.
What an interesting week with our face to face interview with Asian sensation RAIN and a week of Korean women triumphing and being dismissed. The most exciting hour was Friday evening with RAIN and James McTeigue, the director of Ninja Assassin. We were one of the very first people to speak with RAIN on his press tour to promote the upcoming release of Ninja Assassin. He was very nice and genuinely happy to see us when we first entered the room. We didn’t know what to expect because you read so much about how huge he is in Asia and you wonder what he’s like. He was actually very social, talkative and very comfortable in his own skin. He clearly does not lack confidence, even with the difficult task of having to speak English for a long line of interviews. What was most interesting was that he followed us out to the waiting room and essentially chilled with us while we packed up our gear. It seemed like he wanted to chat more and it wouldn’t be a surprise because he was probably exhausted from speaking English during the interviews. He just wanted to hang with his Korean-American homeys.
What a week of Korean women!
So which Koreans were on TV this week? There were four Korean women to one Korean man. Anthony Kim was seen on NBC this weekend, winning the Kiwi Challenge down in New Zealand. It was actually a tape delay from the previous week. But this was the week of Korean women with two Korean athletes winning their respective competitions. Kim Yu Na won the Skate America championship in Lake Placid, which may presage a gold medal at the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver. Michelle Wie won her very first LPGA tournament down in Mexico against stiff competition at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico. However, for Korean beauties, it wasn’t such a great week with two ladies competing in separate model competitions losing out before the end. Catharina Lee was a finalist for the Victoria Secret runway model competition before going home when they whittled it down to the final five. And Jennifer An almost made it to the very end on America’s Next Top Model but was sent home as well. It’s pretty cool that we’ve Korean women are beautiful, athletic and ambitious. You go girl!
Korean female athletes are winning everywhere! Michelle Wie won her very first LPGA tournament down in Mexico this weekend and the best skater on the planet, Kim Yu-Na, won her second consecutive title at Skate America. However, it wasn’t a perfect win because she failed to win the free skate portion of the competition after having dominated the short program with a new world record score.
Kim Yu Na stumbled a little in the free skate but in the end she beat out her nearest competitor by 13 points – which is considered a big gap – to win the Skate America title. She is clearly the favorite heading into the Olympics in Vancouver. Based on her scoring, she’s been demoralizing her competition because her scores have been significantly more than her competitors. Will Kim Yu Na get a gold medal or will she become the next Michelle Kwan, who is known as one of the most decorated American ice skaters to never have won a gold medal at the Olympics.