Yuna Kim Lights the Olympic Torch at the 2018 Opening Ceremony


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Yuna Kim lights the Olympic cauldron at the 2018 Opening Ceremony.

As many expected, Yuna Kim lit the Olympic torch at the Opening Ceremony to officially start the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. The Queen skated on a makeshift ice rink above the crowd just before lighting the Olympic cauldron. According to NBC, Kim was the first female to light the torch solo since 2006, and at 27 years old was the youngest solo person to do it since 1994. This year’s ceremony is unique for American fans given the event happened in South Korea at 6 a.m. Eastern. Fans could choose to watch the ceremony live online via NBC Sports, but the majority of fans will watch the NBC television broadcast on tape delay beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern.

The New York Times described the final moments of the ceremony with Kim.

Inbee Park, the golfer, is one of the final torchbearers. Two members of the mixed North and South Korean women’s hockey team, Chung Su-hyon of North Korea and Park Jong-ah of South Korea, carry the torch up the stairs. And the hero chosen for the highest of Olympic honors is … Yuna Kim, the profoundly popular figure skater who won the gold medal in 2010 and the silver medal in 2014. She is a beloved celebrity in South Korea and often referred to as “Queen Yuna.”

Kim is one of the most popular athletes in South Korean history. She made history in 2010 as the first South Korean ice skater to win a gold medal, and followed it up with a silver medal in the 2014 games. Kim is not competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics, but has been actively involved in the planning process for PyeongChang. As a bid ambassador, she was one of the people who presented to the selection committee as South Korea looked to win the 2018 games. Lead bid strategist Terrence Burns spoke with NBC about Kim’s impact on South Korea winning the bid.

“She’s exactly what we were trying to express in breaking the stereotype of the previous two bids,” Burns told NBC. “She was young, worldly. She represented the new Korea, which we were desperately trying to get across. It wasn’t old Korean men in suits on stage anymore. She personified that. It’s why we saved her to the end, actually.”

After months of practice, Kim delivered the speech in English, and helped South Korea seal the 2018 bid. It is hard to find a more popular person in South Korea than Kim. According to NBC, a recent Korean Gallup poll found 46.5 percent of people believe Kim was the person who deserves the most credit for PyeongChang winning the selection. Kim spoke with NBC about her role behind-the-scenes.

“I remember the moment when PyeongChang was announced as the Host City of the Olympic Games,” Kim told NBC. “For the success of the PyeongChang Olympic Games, I will work hard to attract attention and bring publicity to the event and as a former skater, to create an environment where athletes can give their best performances.”

Click here to read Heavy’s in-depth profile of the most popular ice skater in South Korean history.