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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011

ICE TIME

Kim's compassion enhances her legendary stature


"No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child."

Jack Gallagher

— Abraham Lincoln

A month after propelling South Korea to victory in the bidding to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, Kim Yu Na is showing no signs of slowing down.

The superstar continues to enhance her already impeccable reputation through her charitable endeavors. Her management company, All That Sports, announced last week she would serve as a Goodwill Ambassador for the upcoming Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2013.

This came shortly after news that she would skate at "An Evening with Champions" — Harvard University's annual exhibition to benefit the Jimmy Fund, which supports adult and pediatric cancer care and research — in October.

I could only shake my head at her continued benevolence.

News photo
Heart of gold: Olympic champion Kim Yu Na gives instruction to a Special Olympian at Seoul's Dongehun Indoor Ice Skating Rink last Friday. COURTESY SPECIAL OLYMPICS

There have been times over the years when athletes have had their motivations questioned regarding charitable donations of time and money, but not Kim Yu Na. This is not about brand-building, but something much deeper.

Here is somebody who understands the power she possesses and is determined to do right by it.

The 2010 Olympic gold medalist made significant financial contributions to the victims of the Haiti earthquake and the March 11 disaster in Tohoku. She also currently serves as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

What moves me the most is seeing a young person, at the height of her powers, trying to impact the world in a positive way.

It seems we are constantly confronted with individuals, who are gifted in one way or another, squandering their talents.

You know what I'm talking about. If they are not wasting their ability literally, they are doing it figuratively. Too often, it leads to an early demise, or a life of unfulfilled potential.

In Kim, we have a person who comprehends what her hard work and natural gifts have enabled her to do. She is only 20 years old, but clearly sees the big picture.

"It is my honor to be invited to (be part of) such a meaningful event," Kim said at a ceremony in Seoul last Friday. "The Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang 2013 is an international competition for people with intellectual disabilities to develop physical fitness and social adaptability. It is the third time to have a Special Olympics World Games in Asia, which is very meaningful.

"However, I heard that many people are not aware of this Special Olympics yet, and that has been a big obstacle to the 2013 Games, because the Games can be completed (only) with people's participation and volunteerism.

"So, from today, I have decided to become the Global Ambassador and Goodwill Ambassador of the Special Olympics World Winter Games Pyeongchang 2013, and I will try my best to make the 2013 Pyeongchang Special Olympic World Winter Games be a successful, inspiring international event by introducing Pyeongchang worldwide, and raising interest among Korean people."

Added Kim, "I hope that everyone gets to know about Special Olympics from today's event and bring their active support toward Special Olympics athletes preparing for the 2013 Games.

"Please help and support us, and I wish Special Olympics will hold a special place in everyone's attention with a warm heart."

Timothy Shriver, chairman and CEO of the Special Olympics, made clear his joy at having Kim on board for this most worthy of causes.

"I cannot begin to tell you how pleased we are at Special Olympics that you've volunteered your time and infectious enthusiasm to become one of our Global Ambassadors for the Special Olympics Movement and as a Goodwill Ambassador for the World Winter Games Pyeongchang 2013," Shriver said in a statement.

Kim joins some pretty elite company in her new role. Fellow athletes Michael Phelps, Yao Ming and gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci are also Global Ambassadors for the Special Olympics.

Phelps wasted little time in welcoming Kim, tweeting her a congratulatory message that included "Welcome to the team!"

It is great enough that Kim has chosen to become part of the Special Olympics family, but the way she did it said even more about her.

The formal announcement was made at Dongehun Indoor Ice Skating Rink, where the 2009 world champion put on the blades beforehand and gave an instructional clinic to Special Olympics skaters.

"Awesome" is the word that comes to mind.

Raising the bar: Daisuke Takahashi was in France recently for a two-week training program with French choreographer Muriel Boucher-Zazoui, AFP reported last week.

Takahashi, the 2010 world champion, is looking to regain his form after a fifth-place finish at this year's delayed worlds. Boucher-Zazoui specializes in working with ice dancers.

"I needed to develop my skating technique," Takahashi said. "It's not that I'm not good, but you can always improve certain things with the help of people who are globally recognized for their competence."

Takahashi succinctly summarized his feelings about his performance last season in an interview with the wire service.

"I lacked stability on the jumps and at the same time I saw the emergence of a new generation of skaters," he said.

Junior update: The Japan Skating Federation has decided on the assignments for the season's early Junior Grand Prix events. Risa Shoji, who narrowly missed out on a medal at last year's world junior championships, has been selected to compete at the JGPs in Brisbane, Australia, and Tallin, Estonia.

Miyabi Oba, Riona Kato, Ryuju Hino and Sei Kawahara will represent Japan at the season-opening JGP in Riga, Latvia (Aug. 31-Sept. 4).

Haruna Suzuki, Keiji Tanaka and Yoji Tsuboi will join Shoji at the event Down Under (Sept. 7-11).

Satoko Miyahara, Miu Sato, Ryuichi Kihara and Shoma Uno have been tapped to skate in Gdansk, Poland (Sept. 14-18).

The JSF will determine the remainder of the assignments in the coming weeks.



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