Kim Yu-na leaves for Innsbruck
By Cho Mu-hyun
Korean figure skating star Kim Yu-na left Tuesday for Innsbruck, Austria, to attend the first Winter Youth Olympics.
The event will commence Saturday (KST) and Kim will attend the opening ceremony as a torchbearer and participate in various cultural and educational programs to mentor talented youngsters from across the globe. It will conclude on Jan. 22.
The 21-year-old will take part in the "Athlete Role Model" program with compatriot Moon Dae-sung, an IOC Athlete's Commission member, to share her knowledge of figure skating.
She will also visit the rink to cheer Korea's Lee June-hyoung and Park So-youn, as they compete for their respective figure skating golds.
"It is a new feeling to attend (a Games) as an ambassador instead of participating," Kim said at Incheon International Airport.
She had some words of advice for the young Korean athletes saying, "I hope they enjoy the Games without pressure and consider (the event) a preparatory stage to the main Olympics. Meeting with foreign athletes is just as significant as the competition and I hope they learn a lot."
Kim will watch some of the early events over the weekend before returning to Korea on Monday.
She was named as an ambassador by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in October last year and has been actively promoting Winter Youth Olympics since then. She has shot a video and attended an official press conference in Switzerland in November with IOC President Jacques Rogge.
She is one of five ambassadors chosen for the gala making their debuting this year. The others are the Pittsburgh Penguins' Canadian hockey star Sidney Crosby, Alpine skiers Lindsey Vonn of the United States and Austrian Benjamin Raich and freestyle skier Kevin Rolland from France.
Taking part at the Youth Games will be 1,058 athletes from 70 countries between the ages of 15 and 18. They will compete in 15 disciplines with 63 gold medals up for grabs.
The 28 Korean competitors also left for Innsbruck on Monday, with the aim of winning 10 medals, with two golds targeted in figure skating and short track speed skating.