Noriaki Kasai & Figure skater ‘Queen’ Yuna

Lausanne, Jan 14, 2014: Despite turning 41 in 2013, Japanese ski jumping legend Noriaki Kasai shows no signs of slowing down. A fixture on the global circuit since 1989, he has appeared in more World Cup events and Olympic Games than any other ski jumper in history. The Sochi Winter Olympics next month will be his seventh.

Winter-Olympics-countdown-Japanese-ski-jump-vetera_94210380014444On 24 August 2013, some 24 years on from his international debut, Kasai won the FIS Ski Jumping Grand Prix on Hakuba’s Olympic HS-131 hill, in his native Japan. Reacting to the win he said: “It’s been two years since my last victory. I was in my thirties then, and now I’m in my forties, which makes me even happier and shows that I can still compete with the best in the world. It gives me a lot of confidence.”

While preparing for his seventh Olympic Games in Sochi, the evergreen Japanese was asked why he continues to compete. The answer was brief but revealing: “Because I haven’t won a gold medal yet.”

Since making his world championship debut in Lahti, Finland, in 1989 and appearing in his first FIS World Cup event in Thunder Bay, Canada, in December the same year, Kasai has competed at the Worlds 11 times, as well as 427 World Cup competitions and six Olympic Games, recording 15 individual wins and 44 podium finishes.

“I love ski jumping and I’m not ready to stop doing it yet,” he vows, expressing a love that is reciprocated by his army of fans around the world, which will surely grow in number come February 2014.

Winter Olympics countdown: ‘Queen’ Yuna of Korea

Lausanne: Figure skater Kim Yuna first made her mark on the Olympic Winter Games with her outstanding performances on the ice at Vancouver 2010. After taking a break from competitive action the following year she returned in 2013 to win her second world title, and is now gunning to become the first woman to retain the Olympic figure skating title since Katarina Witt in 1988.

When she took to the ice at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum on 25 February 2010, Kim – nicknamed “Queen Yuna” back home in Korea – turned on a dazzling gold medal-winning display that captured the imagination of the crowd and impressed the judges, who gave the 19-year-old the highest score ever awarded to a figure skater.

In doing so she made an indelible mark on the Republic of Korea’s Olympic history by winning the country’s first ever figure skating title, a feat that made her a national idol.

Kim has long been accustomed to pulling off firsts. She took up skating at the age of six and nurtured her talent under the watchful eye of Canada’s two-time Olympic silver medallist Brian Orser in Toronto since 2006.

She was her country’s first ISU Junior and Senior Grand Prix medal winner and also landed Korea’s first world championship medals in claiming bronze in 2007 and 2008, and then gold in 2009 in Los Angeles.

Following her Olympic triumph in Vancouver she won silver at the Worlds in 2010 and 2011 before deciding to put her career on hold for the best part of two years.

Her main objective is to defend her Olympic title in Sochi next month, but she suffered a setback in September 2013 when she was sidelined for six weeks with an injury in her right foot.

That hurdle is just one of many she has faced in her journey to the top, and she will be confident that come February 2014 she can become the first woman since Katarina Witt in 1984 and 1988 to win back-to-back Olympic figure skating titles. —- OCA

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