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Gold for Russia, silver for Kim Yu-Na and controversy ensues

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 21 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — In the final chapter of her storied Olympic figure skating career, South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na won silver — not able to defend her gold against a Russian teenager who seemingly came out of nowhere to get the top prize.

Instantly, there was controversy.

Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova finished with a total score of 224.59, beating Kim’s score of 219.11 by 5.48 points after the free skate program. Sotnikova, 17, became the first female Russian skater to win in the category.

Some pointed out that she had stepped out after landing a triple combination and others raised questions about the anonymous judging system.

Dick Button, a men’s figure skating two-time Olympic Gold medalist, said he didn’t think Sotnikova was the whole package.

It didn’t help that one of the judges had in the past been suspended for a year for trying to fix an event at the Winter Olympics 16 years ago. Or that another is married to the head of the Russian figure skating federation.

5 moments from Thursday at the Winter Olympics

Sotnikova’s program had seven triple jumps, which was one more than Kim. The final judgment split sports journalists and figure skating experts.

“It’s debatable, but not a robbery,” wrote Chris Chase of USA Today. “Sotnikova skated well enough to win gold. She had a carefully constructed program with seven triples, five of which were in a combo. Kim had six and three, respectively. Thus, Sotnikova was going in with a higher total and made more margin for error, which she took advantage of with a minor hop after one exchange.”

Russia's Adelina Sotnikova becomes the first in her country to win gold in the single women's event.
Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova becomes the first in her country to win gold in the single women’s event.

Sotnikova’s technical score of 75.54 dwarfed Kim’s technical score of 69.69.

Results: Women’s figure skating results

But others weren’t convinced.

Kurt Browning, a four-time world champion, told the New York Times: “I just couldn’t see how Yu-na and Sotnikova were so close in the components. I was shocked. What, suddenly, she just became a better skater overnight? I don’t know what happened. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

Italy’s Carolina Kostner took the bronze.

Kim was looking to be only the third woman to defend her Olympic figure skating title, joining Katarina Witt, who took to the ice in Calgary 26 years ago, and Sonja Henie, who competed in the 1920s and 30s.

South Korea's Kim Yu-Na performs during Thursday's free skate.
South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na performs during Thursday’s free skate.

In 2010, she took gold in the Vancouver Olympics by a landslide, where she scored a record 228.56 points to win gold in women’s figure skating. She eclipsed her closest rival by a massive 23.06 points.

Known as “Queen Yuna” to her legions of fans, Kim’s victory in Vancouver made her the first Korean figure skater to win a gold medal.

Deaths in South Korea resort roof collapse

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 18 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

At least 10 killed, more than 100 injured, after accident involving 500 students in Gyeongju.

At least 10 people have been killed in the South Korean city of Gyeongju after the roof of a resort auditorium collapsed during a welcoming ceremony for university students, officials have said.

More than 100 others were injured in Monday’s collapse in the southeastern coastal city as heavy snow reportedly hampered rescue operations, according to AFP news agency.

“Ten people are confirmed dead, two were seriously injured and 101 others suffered bruises and cuts,” a spokesman from the Ministry of Security and Public Administration told a press briefing in Seoul.

Nine of the dead were college students, police said, adding that an event organiser was also killed.

All the students were believed to be accounted for, but rescuers were still searching the site on Tuesday morning for anyone still trapped inside.

South Korean media reported that heavy snowfall was believed to have resulted in the collapse, but the cause was still being investigated.

“The ceiling came crashing down at the front near the stage. Then pandemonium broke out and everyone started rushing towards the exits, shouting and screaming,” one student told the YTN news channel.

The collapse came as about 1,000 students from Busan University of Foreign Studies gathered at the resort of Gyeongju. More than 500 of the students were in an auditorium when the roof collapsed, the official said, and many managed to get out of the building by themselves, he said.

Weather officials said heavy snow had fallen in the Busan area in the last week.

Two Koreas to begin rare high-level talks

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 12 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Officials from North and South Korea are due to begin the highest level talks for several years.

The meeting – requested by Pyongyang – will take place at the border village of Panmunjom, Seoul says.

No agenda has been set but the issue of family reunions planned for later this month is expected to be discussed.

Pyongyang has threatened to cancel the reunions because of the annual military exercises South Korea and the US are due to stage in February.

‘Open mind’

South Korea’s Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Kyou-Hyun will lead Seoul’s delegation at the Panmunjom talks, a Unification Ministry spokesman in Seoul said.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Kim said: “This is an opportunity to open a new era of the Korean peninsula.

“I would like to attend the meeting with ‘open attitude and mind’ to study the opportunity.”

The agreement to hold the meeting followed a proposal from North Korea, he said.

One South Korean official said the invitation had arrived without warning, and had taken the government by surprise, the BBC’s Lucy Williamson in Seoul reports.

There is hope in Seoul that it might kick-start a regular dialogue, our correspondent adds.

The two Koreas are due to hold reunions of families divided by the partitioning of the Korean Peninsula at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War for five days from 20 February.

The last such reunions took place in 2010. But these reunions coincide with the start of the US-South Korea joint military drills – annual exercises which anger North Korea.

Many in South Korea see Pyongyang’s reaction as a test of its new approach, our correspondent says.

In a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday, North Korea’s ambassador to the UN, So Se Pyong, spoke of the need to terminate all hostile military actions which he described as the main obstacles to peace.

He called for the US and South Korea to suspend their planned military exercises, describing them as “of a sinister and dangerous nature”.

Last week Pyongyang threatened to cancel the family reunions, warning that “dialogue and exercises of war” could not go hand-in-hand.

Ice queens set to do battle one last time

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 10 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — In a sport famous for its all-consuming rivalries, and mirroring a historical conflict that has caused sporting enmity for decades, the figure skating matchup between Mao Asada of Japan and South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na is one of the most storied competitions in the sport’s history.

Sochi will likely host the final chapter in this legendary head-to-head, which has dominated figure skating since both skaters were juniors. Both Asada and Kim plan to retire following this year’s Winter Games.

It is also the Japanese skater’s last chance for Olympic gold. Asada finished up as runner-up to her nemesis the last time they met in Olympic competition, taking the silver while Kim grabbed the top podium spot. Asada, for her part, has won two world championships and the 2013 Grand Prix Final.

“In Vancouver, I had the gold medal as my goal,” Asada was quoted as saying on the Olympics website.

“I’d worked for it since I was a child, and afterwards I really regretted my mistakes. In Sochi, I’d like to erase those memories by doing everything perfectly. That’s what I’ve been working for these last three years.”

Japan and Korea’s history, which spanned decades of occupation before entering a post-war state of grudging truce, is the backdrop for the pair’s rivalry. The two country’s prior conflicts saw Japanese colonial rule enacted on the Korean peninsula from the early part of the 20th Century to the conclusion of the Second World War.

Various diplomatic mis-steps since then have kept relations between the two neighbors as chilly as the surface of Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace.

Mao and Kim have been adversaries since their very early days as competitive skaters, and have shared honors throughout their respective careers. They have both been skating competitively since 2005.

They were born only 20 days apart, in 1990, and given the length and depth of their on-ice history, it is fitting that they should both choose to bow out of the sport at the same time.

Despite — or perhaps because of — their long rivalry, they remain very different skaters. The Japanese skater has long been noted for her technical abilities, while her Korean counterpart is praised as a more artistic, emotional skater.

Asada was the first woman to land a triple axel in competition and has since bettered the feat. The 23-year-old has credited the ongoing competition with her Korean counterpart as a key motivation for her continued improvements on the ice.

They describe their dynamic as friendly, and Kim has also acknowledged the importance of Asada’s part in her professional development.

“We have been constantly compared since we were in junior competition so I always considered her a rival,” Kim told reporters last year. “While we want to avoid each other, having her there also gave me motivation and stimulation.”

As the two prepare to meet one final time, their fans around the world will be glued to their TVs. The Ladies Short Program and Free Skating take place on the 19th and 20th of February.

Kim has yet to skate at this Olympics, although Asada arrived in Sochi last week and has already taken to the ice for her part in the Team event, a new introduction to the Games.

She fell during her Ladies Short Program routine on Sunday, and finished third with a score of 64.07. Despite the Japanese media saying that she has no problem with her triple axel during practice, it was the difficult jump that undid her at the weekend.

It is one of her most devastating weapons but she has had trouble re-mastering it following a change of coach. Teammate Akiko Suzuki replaced her for the free skate portion of the event.

Kim is only the third woman to defend her Olympic figure skating title, joining Katarina Witt, who took to the ice in Calgary 26 years ago, and Sonja Henie, who competed in the 1920’s and 30’s.

However, a fairytale ending for for one of the skaters could be thwarted by the aptly-named Gracie Gold, the 18-year-old American who will be skating in her first Games. Gold wowed fans with her victory in the U.S. National Figure Skating Championship last month.