I'm on my way to Dortmund to meet a South Korean ice-skater. It's perhaps the most exotic of my foreign assignments to date. Kim Yu-na is her name. She's 22, the world record holder and Olympic champion. She's incredibly rich and has goddess status in South Korea. She's merely "Queen Yu-na" everywhere else.
Yu-na is her first name. The Koreans put their second names first, pushing their first names second so, well, their first names are first and their second second. What I mean to say is that Kim is her surname and Yu-na her first, even though it's second.
Anyway, as you probably gathered, she's quite famous. I confess I'd never heard of her before, nor, indeed, of any other ice-skaters. It's been a steep learning curve.
Ice-skating is generally avoided in Ireland, where the sensible approach is to stay indoors when it's that slippery out, preferably in a pub. 'Tis hard enough to walk on ice, nevermind skate on it.
So she's already got my respect. Not only can she walk on ice, she can dance and jump around on it too! The amount of spinning she does would leave you dizzy. The main problem, from my point of view, will be determining how many revolutions she does. Not that she's a revolutionary, she's no Che Guevara, but each 360 degree turn is considered a revolution. That much I've learned. More problematic will be telling the difference between a toe loop, a loop jump, salchow or an axel. There are more too. I'll be cramming again before the competition actually starts tomorrow.
At least she speaks English. I don't need to learn Korean on the train down from Berlin, though my current German course would make that seem like less of chore than you'd think.**
I've brought two pairs of gloves. I'm assuming ice-rinks are cold. Heated ice sounds good in principle but I imagine it can lead to a bit of a damp squib at competitions. Splashing is the last sound any ice-skater wants to hear and I'm sure Yu-na is no different.
She'll be able to practice outside. Germany is an ice-rink at the moment. I nearly snotted meself on the way to the U-Bahn earlier. It wouldn't have happened in a pub*. But skating becomes obligatory at times like these...
We'll see if I've any time for sightseeing. Dortmund can't be as bad as Leverkusen, Cologne, Minden or any of the other nondescript German cities I've been too. One thing's for sure - it'll be ice.
*Toilets of the Harbour Bar excluded of course. They're never cleaned and always very slippy. And no, it ain't ice.
UPDATE: December 12, 2012 - I've just added pictures of Yu-na from the second day of the NRW Trophy, as the event was called.
I'll write more about the event, the experience, Yu-na and figure skating in general in a separate post, possibly on Friday.
**She actually spoke through a translator. I presume she has reasonably good English, but she didn't try it in any case. I'm sure her English is better than my Korean, but thankfully I didn't have to find out.