In many ways, Kim Yu-na is a victim of her own success. Through hard work, she has risen to become a champion figure skater—a feat made all the more impressive considering her native South Korea has no strong history in the sport. The 19-year-old is the country's highest-paid athlete and a national hero, a status that confers a considerable amount of pressure in a country that tends to nationalize individual success and failure.
For Kim, the weight of an entire country's expectations going into the Vancouver Olympics has been enormous, the Wall Street Journal reports. She vented in a book of short essays published last month: "If my performance falters, not only people around me but the whole nation might turn their back on me," she wrote. Kim recalls the disappointment her countrymen expressed after her second-place finish in a 2008 event: "I got a flurry of text messages, but I felt sad and disappointed after checking them," she writes. "Not a single message congratulated me." (Read more South Korea stories.)