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SKorea's Kim says fans' cheers can be unnerving

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP)

Figure skating world champion Kim Yu-na says she struggles with performing in front of her adoring, and noisy, home audience.

The 19-year-old Kim, who trains in Canada, is South Korea's best hope for an Olympic medal in figure skating, and her rare visits to Asia draw hordes of media and screaming fans. She says the rousing cheers from the legion of fans who turn out to see her skate can be unnerving.

In her final competition before the Vancouver Winter Olympics, Kim came from behind to win the Grand Prix title in Japan last weekend.

Kim, speaking with South Korean reporters in Tokyo this week, described a year filled with highs - including claiming the world championship in Los Angeles - and lows, such as relinquishing the Grand Prix title last year before a home audience.

"Whenever I perform well in a competition, I say to myself: 'This should have been the Olympics!"' she joked.

Kim said competing at home last season was her toughest event of the year, with a packed stadium going crazy from the moment she glided onto the ice for her warmup. Hundreds held up yellow placards paying homage to their "Queen Yu-na."

"I could hear them getting louder just as I was about to jump," she said. "I just wanted the six-minute warmup to end - it was too much. I even considered withdrawing."

Kim finished second to Mao Asada of Japan at the Grand Prix final in Goyang a year ago, struggling with a cold, along with the nerves that come with bearing the expectations of South Korea's 49 million people.

The crowd showered her with affection anyway, sending hundreds of bouquets and stuffed animals onto the ice after both her short program and free skate.

Kim said she finds rinkside chanting and clapping distracting.

"Sometimes they clap at the wrong time, which I find perplexing," Kim said.

"Figure skating is a spectator sport, not one that needs much clapping," she said. "If they're so busy rooting for me, how can they watch me skate? I'd prefer if they'd focus on my skating."

Kim said she understood how Jang Mi-ran, a fellow South Korean who won a weightlifting gold at the Beijing Olympics, felt when she said she disliked competing at home.

With nearly every other title under her belt, Kim now has her sights on Olympic gold at Vancouver in February.

"I really want to see the words: 'Kim, Olympic champion' in the news," she said.

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