Kim Yu-na leaves coach Brian Orser; Olympic skate champ’s reps cite ‘uncomfortable’ relations

By Nancy Armour, AP
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Skating split: Kim Yu-na leaves coach Brian Orser

Olympic champion Kim Yu-na insists former coach Brian Orser knows why the two are no longer working together, and was “flabbergasted” and “upset” that he would say otherwise.

Orser said Tuesday that Kim’s mother, Park Mi-hee, told him Aug. 2 that he was no longer Kim’s coach but gave no reason for the decision. When Orser and fellow coach Tracy Wilson met with Kim last week, Orser said even the skater seemed confused by the events.

But in postings on Cyworld, a South Korean social networking site similar to Facebook, Kim said her relationship with Orser had been “awkward” for the last few months, and that it was ultimately her decision to leave.

“Do you think it’s really true that my mother decided on her own to part ways with the coach? I’m no longer a child,” wrote Kim, who turns 20 on Sept. 5. “He was my coach, and whether we stay on or part ways, it was my final decision, and this is what I decided to do, with discretion, after consulting with my mother.”

Kim’s management agency, AT Sports, confirmed that the postings, written in Korean, were made by Kim. AT Sports also confirmed the skater had posted an angry tweet in English directed at Orser, which was quickly deleted. AT Sports did not explain why.

Kim is still training at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, where she has worked with Orser since 2006. But she has been “more or less” working without a coach since May, AT Sports said, and they have no plans for a new one. Kim announced last month that she is skipping the Grand Prix series and will focus instead on the world championships.

Kim and Orser have always had a warm, friendly relationship — he’s even made appearances in some of her commercials — but Orser said he noticed a change when the skater returned from South Korea in May. Kim had said after the world championships that she wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue competing, and Orser said he and Wilson tried to give her space to decide.

Wildly popular in South Korea — her nickname is “Queen Yu-na” — she ranked fifth on’s list of the world’s highest-paid female athletes this month with earnings of $9.7 million the past year.

But when Kim announced her plans for the season, she did it without informing Orser first. He then got a call from Shae-Lynn Bourne, who said she had been asked to choreograph Kim’s short program.

Kim’s programs are usually choreographed by David Wilson, who works with Orser and Tracy Wilson.

“I immediately started e-mailing them,” Orser said. “I was in the dark and felt I deserved to have some clarity. … I was a little embarrassed, to be honest with you, that I didn’t know any of this stuff.”

But Kim said “everyone involved in this, including coach Brian Orser” knows the reasons behind the split.

“If you knew about the process that we went through, you will understand how shocked and flabbergasted we felt when we saw Orser’s interviews,” Kim wrote. “… But I don’t want to talk about the process we went through, and there’s no need to do so. This is strictly our issue.”

Orser said he held off announcing the split in hopes Kim and her camp would have a change of heart. He decided to make the separation public Monday because he didn’t want it to become a distraction for his other skaters, including up-and-coming Americans Adam Rippon and Christina Gao.

“What’s happening now would happen at some point. I didn’t want it to happen when I was at a competition with Adam or Christina,” Orser said. “That’s not fair to them.”

Kim began working with Orser in 2006, when she came to Toronto to work with noted choreographer David Wilson. Orser, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, became her full-time coach in 2007, and Kim flourished under his guidance. After finishing third at the 2008 worlds, she won all but two competitions the next two seasons, often in record fashion.

She overwhelmed the competition in Vancouver with a spellbinding blend of technical skill and elegance, oblivious to the pressure that came with being the biggest favorite to win gold since Katarina Witt in 1988. She shattered her own world record for total score by 18 points, and also topped her marks for the short program and free skate.

It was South Korea’s first Winter Olympic gold in a sport other than speedskating. Kim also won the 2009 world title, and was the Grand Prix final champion three times.

“It’s disappointing because it involves Yu-na,” Orser said. “I love her and I’ve been working with her and we’ve grown together and she’s flourished under this team that we had. So I’m saddened we weren’t able to get through it.

“Now it’s done. We all move forward,” he added. “I want the best for Yu-na.”

In a statement released by AT Sports, Kim thanked Orser for helping her become Olympic champion and wished him well in the future. But her postings had a far more bitter tone.

“It’s unbearable to let people believe lies and let criticisms fall on those who are innocent,” she wrote. “Why something that could have ended well had to end up being so hurtful like this to each other … I just really want it to stop.”

Associated Press Writer Sangwon Yoon in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.


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