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Kim Yu-na to skate in S. Korean figure championships this weekend
SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- Figure skating star Kim Yu-na will compete in the South Korean national championships this weekend, her first appearance at the tournament in seven years, as she tries to qualify for the world championships this spring.

   The Korea Skating Union (KSU) said Wednesday Kim will take part in the 2013 Korea Figure Skating Championships at Mokdong Ice Rink in western Seoul. The ladies' short program is set for Saturday and free skating is on Sunday.

   Kim, 22, last competed in the national championships as a junior in 2006.

   Kim, the 2009 world champion and the 2010 Olympic gold medalist, needs to win the South Korean title this weekend to qualify for the 2013 world championships to be held in Canada. Following the end of the 2011 world championships in Moscow, Kim sat out for 20 months while contemplating her future. The extended hiatus led to speculation that she might retire. Later, in July of last year, Kim announced that she would resume her competitive skating career with an eye on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

   She returned to competition last month at the NRW Trophy in Germany and won that relatively minor event with 201.61 points, the highest score by a female skater this season.

Kim Yu-na. (Yonhap file photo)

Kim, by far the greatest figure skater South Korea has ever produced, is the overwhelming favorite to win the national title. Though the result may be a foregone conclusion, figure skating fans will still get a glimpse into the future of the sport in South Korea.

   In the ladies' competition, Kim Hae-jin and Park So-youn, two emerging junior skaters, will try to hold their ground against Kim Yu-na.

   Kim Hae-jin won the International Skating Union (ISU) Junior Grand Prix event in Slovenia in September last year. Earlier in September, Park was the runner-up in her Junior Grand Prix stop in Turkey. Both are 15 years old.

   In the men's side, Kim Jin-seo, a bronze medalist at the Austrian Junior Grand Prix in September, will be the favorite. The 16-year-old also finished seventh at the NRW Trophy with a personal best 124.03 points.

   This will be the 67th edition of the national figure championships, and the KSU, in response to heightened interest thanks to Kim Yu-na's participation, will charge admission for the first time in the competition's history.

   The KSU said 3,600 tickets were sold within minutes of going on sale online last Thursday. The tickets went for 19,800 won (US$18.60) on the second level and 15,400 won for the third level. The ice level seats are closed off for the event because of obstructed views to the ice, the KSU said.

   Additional tickets will go on sale at 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the KSU.