It was a long time coming, but Kim Yu-na returned to ice skating last weekend to take the 2013 World Figure Skating Championship.
The South Korean returned to the rink in late 2012 after being out of action for 20 months, stepping back from the ice shortly after winning gold for her legendary performance in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
In London, Ontario, the 22 year-old couldn't quite match her performance three years ago when she set world records that still stand. Such a thing would be nearly impossible. But she still thrilled fans with a show of rare beauty and technical brilliance.
Her great rival, Asada Mao of Japan, took bronze but like the rest of the field was unable to catch "Queen Yuna" and her winning margin of more than 20 points. Italy’s Carolina Kostner finished second.
“I had a great long program today and I am proud I could do it,” Kim said. “I am happy as well to skate here in Canada again with this wonderful audience. I am glad too that we have more spots for Korea at the Olympics and I want to experience this with my fellow skaters,” she added, referring to the fact that her winning gold means Korea can have three female skaters at next year’s Olympics.
Kim announced her planned return in 2012 with the 2013 World Figure Skating Championship and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in mind. She has said that she will retire for good after that.
When she made the announcement, nobody doubted her talent, but some questioned whether she would still have the same desire to succeed. She even wondered herself.
"I felt a bit empty because I had achieved my goal," Kim said after Thursday's short program when she finished on top of the field. Many felt that the judges had marked her a little harshly. "It's hard to get back on the ice with the same mentality. I wasn't as nervous as I imagined."
The comeback was stunning after such a long period away from the ice during which she helped the South Korean city of Pyeongchang win in its bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
At the moment, it looks like the only person who can stop Kim from winning gold in 2014 is herself.
"The way I think about skating and how I feel and worry about competitions certainly changed," Kim said. "I don't feel the pressure that much anymore after winning the Olympic Games because I have accomplished all I wanted to.”
She added, "I don't focus on the results only. I just want to enjoy skating and the competition together. Still, I am a human being and I still want to try my best and get good results."