Olympic champion skater Kim Yu-na hires American Peter Oppegard as new coach

By Beth Harris, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Olympic champion Kim hires Oppegard as new coach

ARTESIA, Calif. — Olympic champion Kim Yu-na on Tuesday hired former pairs figure skater Peter Oppegard as her new coach, two months after splitting with Brian Orser.

Kim announced that she’ll train with Oppegard at East West Ice Palace in suburban Los Angeles, which is owned and operated by the family of former skating star Michelle Kwan. Oppegard is married to Kwan’s sister, Karen.

“I feel like it’s new motivation for me to move forward,” Kim said through a translator.

Asked to say something in English, Kim appeared startled, then smiled and said, “I’m so glad to be training here in Los Angeles with my new coach and new skaters.”

About 30 cameras from print and television — many representing South Korean media outlets — were on hand to capture Kim spinning on the ice under Oppegard’s watchful eye. Wearing a gray hoodie with her dark hair in a bun, Kim spun flawlessly as younger skaters stopped to watch.

“She is very motivated and very driven,” Oppegard said. “She reminds me in some ways of Michelle, who has a love of skating.”

The 20-year-old Kim had been skating on her own at the rink in Artesia since last month while rehearsing for two shows last weekend with Michelle Kwan at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Kim won the world title in 2009.

Two weeks ago, she and Oppegard began discussing the possibility of him coaching her. After seeing him at the rink, Kim recalled she first met Oppegard 10 years ago when she came to the U.S. to train at Lake Arrowhead, in the mountains east of Los Angeles.

“It was really great to see him again,” Kim said. “He had a very calm and collected manner. He has a unique style of leading the skaters. He’s going to help me in many areas, artistically as well as technically.”

She’ll begin working on her new short program with choreographer David Wilson of Canada in the middle of the month.

Kim said she and Oppegard have yet to discuss her competition schedule for the upcoming season.

Kim suddenly split with Orser in August after four years together and left her training base in Toronto, Canada, six months after he coached her to the Olympic title at the Vancouver Games.

Kim said living in Los Angeles was “much more convenient” and she already knew the area since she’s been coming here to train for years.

“I need to be in an environment where the skating rink can support me,” she said. “I think everyone in Korea understands why I have to be overseas.”

Oppegard is working with Kim under a season-to-season contract.

“With all her successes, she’s still interested in furthering her skating in all aspects,” he said. “We’ll be examining every aspect, from jumping to spinning to the overall fluidity of her style, which is world-renowned.”

Oppegard and partner Jill Watson won the bronze medal in pairs skating at the 1988 Calgary Olympics. They were three-time U.S. national champions, and were inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2004.

Oppegard has overseen mostly pairs skaters during his coaching career. His most prominent individual skater was Angela Nikodinov, who made the U.S. team for worlds in 1997.

Among the pairs Oppegard has coached are: John Baldwin and Rena Inoue, Stephanie Stiegler and John Zimmerman, and Tiffany and John Stiegler.

Oppegard said he prefers coaching a solo skater.

“I find it easier,” he said. “It will be a singular focus on Yu-na. I like the one-on-one challenge.”

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