SEOUL, South Korea – Catholic Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim lit the torch at the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Feb. 9.
The Korean skating sensation has long expressed a desire to use her public role to share the light of Christ by witnessing to her Catholic faith in international competitions and performances.
Kim was honored as the torchbearer to light the Olympic cauldron for this year’s games, after two athletes from the inter-Korean women’s hockey team, one skater from North Korea and another from the South passed the flame along.
After making the sign of the cross as she stepped onto the ice to win gold in the 2010 Vancouver Games with a record-breaking score, Kim teamed up with Korean bishops for a national rosary campaign. Kim was seen wearing a rosary ring, which her fans had previously mistaken for an engagement ring, during her silver-medal performance at the 2014 Sochi Games.
The Olympian converted to the Catholic faith alongside her mother in 2008 after they came in contact with local nuns and Catholic organizations through her personal physician — also a Catholic — who was treating her for knee injuries.
At her baptism, Kim took the name “Stella” after Mary, Star of the Sea, and told a diocesan paper that during the baptismal rite she “felt an enormous consolation in my heart” and promised God to continue to “pray always,” especially before competitions.
Kim has also been active in using her position as an opportunity for charitable works, volunteering and donating funds to Catholic hospitals, universities and other charitable organizations, and working alongside the Catholic bishops in Korea as a spokeswoman for Catholic charities in Seoul.
In 2012, Kim donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Salesians of Don Bosco to help support the missionary brothers in South Sudan and to establish Catholic schools throughout the war-torn country, meeting with Salesian brothers in Seoul to personally deliver the gift.
She told Korean press that while visiting Africa in 2011 she “felt the need to help out children there,” and wanted “to offer what little support I can” to those in Africa.
Kim is now retired from competitive skating, but the 27-year-old has served as an ambassador for the 2018 Winter Olympics in her home country of Korea. She delivered the original presentation to the International Olympic Committee seven years ago, pitching South Korea as a potential host country, and has been present at most of the official events leading up to the games. She delivered a speech to the United Nations in 2017 advocating for the “Olympic truce” resolution.
Pope Francis said earlier this week that he is praying for the people of the Korean Peninsula during the Olympic Games: “The traditional Olympic truce this year becomes especially important: delegations from the two Koreas will march together under a single flag and compete as one team. This fact gives hope for a world in which conflicts can be resolved peacefully through dialogue and mutual respect.”