Sometimes I suspect that I’m just being told somebody is the brightest new star to be found not because they really are the best out there, but because they’re good-looking enough to be featured on an album cover or the side of a bus or have personalities outlandish enough to entice audiences. The sensationalism of talent in the arts seems on an upward trend–especially when considering factors like increasing media competition and the surging popularity of various reality TV talent shows.
However, this wasn’t the case when I last week tuned into the Olympics and saw the much-heralded star of women’s figure skating set new records with her short program. Nineteen-year-old Kim Yu-na, or ‘Queen Yu-na,’ as she’s affectionately referred to by South Koreans, blew my mind with her mesmerizing and record-breaking performance. And it seems only natural that the pretty and charismatic athlete would have countless endorsements in her native country and fans around the world.
However, it turns out that–at least according to a recent feature in Time magazine–there’s an interesting twist even in the case of Asian natural-born talents like Kim making it to the world stage.
Along with China and Japan, it seems that South Korea has very little to offer potential ice queens (and kings) in terms of resources for success. The article quotes Jae Eun Chung, director of the Korean Skating Union, acknowledging this, and noting that along with too few skating rinks and training programs, her country’s main weakness is a lack of qualified top-level coaches.
Kim Yu-na herself relocated to Toronto back in 2007 to train with former Canadian Olympic silver medallist Brian Orser. And clearly, it has paid off. Chung says of the move, ‘I think Yu-Na improved so much in Canada…The Korean culture values being quiet, but in figure skating, you need to express various feelings. She improved her confidence and her expression.’
But with Pyeongchang’s bid now in (again) for the 2018 Winter Games and this time showing real promise, it looks like South Korea is ready to commit to making big improvements. President Lee Myung-bak has reportedly told South Korean Olympic Committee president Y.S. Park that he wants to discuss the topic and what ways the government can help. And Park himself has said all it’ll take is money and time to keep it domestic and bring in more medals–both of which his country is ready to expend.