Olympic Rivalries Since Birth

An essay based on the competition between two figure skaters, Kim Yuna and Asada Mao

by: Jiwon Cyhn

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Fans grin under the smudged face paint. They chant encouragement, freeze in anticipation, wave their fists in delight or stand with stoic expressions. Flags are waved in the cold empty air, raising the hopes for the athletes.

We are all thrilled to support those who speed in white in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a city in Russia known for its rapid development to prepare for this event since 2008. Among the featured events, there is something that grips the world in suspense – the final matchup between the two prestigious figure skaters planning to retire after this Olympics — Kim Yuna of Korea and Mao Asada of Japan. As the two sharpen their skates, not only will the two countries be glued to their TVs, but so will the rest of the world. The Ladies Short Program and Free Skating take place on the 19th and 20th of February.

Kim and Asada are competitors from the birth– they were born 20 days apart in 1990. Both Kim and Asada have been training hard from a young age. Kim has been training since the age of 5 and moved to Vancouver at the age of 16 to pursue the Olympic dream. Asada had started ballet from age 3, and then at age 9, she swapped to skating following in the footsteps of her older sister. Both trained vigorously during their childhood; both have been skating competitively since 2005, and both have the image of each other burned in their heads – a reminder of the competition. In the most recent two matchups, Kim had scored 7.42 points higher than Asada in Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics , and Asada won gold by gaining 6.79 points ahead of Kim in the 2010 Turin Italy’s Figure Skating World Championship.

For almost a decade, they had to battle each other. So it is only natural that we wonder how much they hate each other. However, they do not view each other as a barrier but as an impetus. “We have been constantly compared since we were in junior competition so I always considered her a rival,” Kim stated in 2013, “While we want to avoid each other, having her there also gave me motivation and stimulation.” Actually, without one another, neither could be what they are now.

Competition. Even in our personal little world, we often find ourselves in competition: whether it entails sports, music, academics, or friendship.  We push ourselves, not only to beat our own record but also to beat others at ISM and from other schools as well. It drives us to do better, to be better. We contemplate on how much we are doing or how much we are achieving then tell ourselves: “I bet he or she is doing ten times more than what I am” and start being jealous and detesting our so called “enemy”.

However, competition should be founded neither on jealousy nor hate. Like Kim and Asada, we should use it to keep motivating ourselves and thus appreciate extra supporters – our rivals. They are your clandestine encouragers and secret supporters. Without them, we would not be who we are now. So next time you go head to head with someone, look at them in the eye and tell them ‘Thanks’.

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