Yuna Kim

Yuna Kim runs away with national title in South Korea

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Yuna Kim wasn’t happy with the final jump she had performed in front of her adoring home fans in South Korea Sunday – so she did another.

The reigning Olympic champion ran away with the South Korean Figure Skating Championships, but had popped a double Axel into a single at the end of the free skate, leaving the 23-year-old unsatisfied. So as her name was called for the medal ceremony, Kim skated out and performed a perfectly clean double Axel, showing her nation – and the world – that she’s determined to be ready for Sochi.

The Vancouver gold medalist racked up a score of 227.86 (which is not counted towards her personal bests because it is a national competition, not international), running away with the title in front of a sell-out crowd, most likely the last to see her compete domestically before she retires. See video of her free skate here.

Soyoun Park was second with a 178.17 and Haejin Kim third at 159.15.

Kim was graceful in her “Adios Nonino” tango piece, flowing from element to element. She opened with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, but later struggled with her Axel combination and finally popped her last planned double Axel. The jump had given her some trouble at her comeback event in Croatia last month, as well.

Kim has skated sparingly since running away with the Olympic title in 2010 with a world-record skate, placing second at the 2011 World Championships before making a grand comeback in 2013, winning the World Championships by a safe margin.

A foot injury forced her out of the Grand Prix season this past year, meaning she’ll attempt to become the first skater to have foregone the major international circuit and still win an Olympic gold since the Grand Prix series was introduced in 1995.

2010 silver medalist Mao Asada is still seen as Kim’s top rival, though Asada was third at the Japanese National Championships two weeks ago and has struggled with her own Axel – the rare triple in ladies’ skating.

2012 world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy and American Ashley Wagner are also seen as medal contenders for the Sochi Games, as are Russian teenagers Adelina Sotnikova and Yulia Lipnitskaya.

The South Korean National Championships marked Kim’s final domestic competition for the 23-year-old, who has said she will retire following the Olympic Games next month.

Yuna Kim not preparing ‘special skills’ for Sochi Olympics

Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Yuna Kim has won nine national titles.

Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

MORE: How Gracie Gold landed in Philadelphia, thoughts competitive return

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