Tina and I are heading back to the States tomorrow, and although it’s been a very sobering time with the news of possible war and retaliation, it’s been a life-giving time for me personally to be here in Seoul.
Sometime in the future, I’ll try to write a post recapping my time here, but I thought I’d touch upon a semi-serious topic I’ve been mulling over the past few days.
As many of you know, one of the most popular and beloved figures in South Korea is Yuna Kim (pronounced Yeo-na Kim, not Yu Na Kim), the women’s figure skating winner of Olympic Gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
I was discussing this with Paul, Jane, David, Jean, and Tina, and I think her performance at this year’s Olympics may have been the most singular clutch performance I’ve ever witnessed. I’m obviously biased, but I honestly couldn’t think of someone coming through under pressure in a sports competition like she did.
1) She was an overwhelming favorite but hadn’t won at the Olympics, and the hopes of Koreans everywhere (45 million strong) rested on her performance. Paul Jung was telling me that the whole country stopped to watch her long program, even cab drivers.
2) Her main competitor, Japan’s Mao Asada, had just gone before her and given her own spotless performance (even connecting on a triple-something), thereby putting all the pressure on Yuna to deliver.
3) She gave a 7-minute long performance with a number of spins, jumps, twirls. She had to be on throughout the entire performance, as opposed to a single swing or a single free throw or a single putt.
4) She shattered the world record for highest scored performance.
5) It was the Olympics. She only had one shot in four years to make this happen.
6) She already had tons of endorsements lined up – the expectation for her to perform well at this one event was higher than anyone else in the sport in terms of the financial investment made in her by different sponsors.
7) The entire world was watching. Well, almost. It was the marquee event of the entire Olympics, which a lot of people around the world watch.
Can you think of any other sports performances that would match her winning skate?
I certainly can’t.
Here are some parameters that helped me decipher “single most clutch performance”:
1) Individual sport – I know, in some ways this is unfair, but I think there’s something to be said of having all eyes on you. And this is just my opinion, but I think figure skating is the most nerve-inducing sport ever. Curling is a close second. And then the balanced beam.
2) Sustained excellence – Someone can recover from a mediocre game to get a clutch hit, throw, or catch. Heck, Yuna’s routine was 7 minutes long! And flawless! And I’m biased!
3) Slim margin for error – Every time a figure skater jumps off the ice, I have a near heart-attack.
Now that I’ve put these parameters in place, I realize I’ve narrowed it down to like 4 sports out of 269.
And so with that, you can call me crazy, but I’d argue that Yuna Kim’s gold medal-winning routine was the single most clutch sports performance ever.