Reporting from Seoul and Tokyo — Wearing a glittering sky-blue dress, her movements both athletic and languid to a classical score of George Gershwin's Concerto in F, the queen of South Korean figure skating has won her nation's first Olympic gold medal in figure skating.
And Kim Yuna, the pouting 19-year-old monarch on ice, did not just win -- she beat the Japanese in the process.
With a performance that nearly matched perfection, she vanquished Japanese archrival Mao Asada, and even set a new Olympic record.
When it comes to sports competitions against Japan, their colonial-era overlords from 1910 to 1945, Koreans wear their fiercest game faces -- be it on a baseball or soccer field, or even within the graceful realm of the figure-skating rink.
"With South Korea versus Japan, it is all about one-sided nationalism," said Shin Kwang-yeong, sociology professor at Chung-Ang University in Seoul. "Of course, Japan's colonization of Korea and emotions between the two countries are instilled in sports.
"It's a phenomenon based on South Korea's group perception about its traumatic history. If you do not win a gold medal, other medals are not satisfying."
And medals are sweeter if snatched from a Japanese competitor.
Many Korea-Japan face-offs carry the tense atmosphere of a Cold War-style showdown between the Russian and U.S. hockey teams.
In 2008, South Korea won its first Olympic gold medal in baseball, beating Japan twice to take the top spot at the podium. News coverage was jubilant, and the players returned home like a conquering army.
But for many Koreans, Kim rises above mere sports. She's a dazzling celebrity whose face and figure dominate TV, print and billboard ads nationwide.
News reports here insist that Kim carried the weight of a nation's patriotism on her shoulders heading into the skating finals. In a recently published book of essays, Kim wrote that she is sometimes irked at the zealous attention paid to her skating by rabid fans.
But on Thursday, once again, the queen did not disappoint.
As hordes of photographers from Japan and South Korea jostled to capture the action, Kim headed into the final showdown with Asada.
The Korean commentators oohed and aahed, her coach applauded on the sidelines, and her country's flag was waved in the stands as Kim performed with the grace of a dancer.
When she was done, she threw her hands into the air and began to weep. Within moments, the announcement came: She had set a new record for total score in Olympic figure skating.
Korean ice skating fans realize that Asada, also 19, is a formidable opponent.
In 2006, at age 15, she was considered the world's best figure skater, winner of the 2006 Grand Prix Final and the first female skater to land two triple-axel jumps in the same program.
But Asada was also unlucky: She was born 87 days too late to meet the age requirement -- 15 years old by July 31 -- to compete in the last Winter Olympics. And many -- especially the Koreans -- think that Asada might have lost a step in her first Olympics.
Her luck was no better Thursday. Asada followed Kim's performance, and it seemed a given that she was probably skating for a silver medal at best.
Dressed in a red and black dress with black gloves, she faltered several times. On this night, the gold belonged to Kim. Asada settled for the silver.
Nobody was clapping more loudly over Kim's winning performance than Hong Yong-myong, 78, South Korea's first female figure skater.
For one, she finds Kim's beauty more ravishing than Asada's. And her skating wasn't bad either. "I'm so happy I lived long enough to see this," she said. "In the past, we really envied Japanese skaters, but now we're ahead of them."
By many accounts, Japanese fans were taking the Olympic figure skating showdown no less seriously.
This week's short program warm-up warranted more media attention than Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda's appearance on Capitol Hill in Washington over the automaker's recall.
After the competition, Japanese fans were conciliatory.
Machiko Takada, 58, a child-care provider who watched most of the competition on her cellphone's TV screen, acknowledged that the better skater had won.
"Of course we want our athletes to win. But it's not a win over a particular country, like Korea or China. I think there's a feeling for the Japanese to come out first, to win in that competition, period."
Machiko Yamada, 67, special advisor on figure skating at Chukyo University and Asada's former childhood coach, dismissed the notion that politics plays a role on the ice or any other athletic field.
"I don't think the girls have any of that political stuff on their mind. They just consider themselves rivals, in a good sense, as athletes," she said after the short program. "They aren't buddies, but they have a good relationship with each other."
Earlier this week, Japanese fans could only sigh when considering South Korea's new dominance in the Winter Olympics.