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Twitter Send 2010/03/22 10:43 KST
Kim Yu-na set to defend world championship title at Turin

SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) -- Olympic figure skating gold medalist Kim Yu-na of South Korea is heading to Italy to defend her world championship title.

   The 19-year-old skater aims to become the first woman skater to win the World Figure Skating Championships for two consecutive years in nearly a decade. American Michelle Kwan lifted trophies in 2000 and 2001.

The competition kicks off Monday in the Italian city of Turin. Kim said during a brief visit to South Korea last month that she would enjoy the upcoming competition "comfortably."

   Kim won gold medal at the Vancouver Games with a record 228.56 points, routing rivals Mao Asada of Japan and Joannie Rochette of Canada by more than 20 points.

   Although Olympic bronze medalist Rochette will not compete at Turin, silver medalist Asada and her compatriots Miki Ando and Akiko Suzuki, along with Italian Carolina Kostner, are strong contenders for the podium.

   Asada, who has been in a heated rivalry with Kim since they both entered senior level competition in 2006, has vowed to beat Kim at Turin and surpass her scores since the Olympics ended.

   Kim's teammate, Kwak Min-jung, who finished 13th with her personal best performance at Vancouver, will make her world championship debut at Turin.

   Kim and Kwak will also work together to bring home three berths for the next year's world championships in Nagano, Japan. If Kim defends the title and Kwak finishes at least 12th, three tickets will be given to South Korean skaters next year.

   The women's short program is scheduled to be held on Friday and free skating on Saturday.