If you watched any of NBC’s Olympic coverage, you may have seen some figure skating. And by “may”, I mean, “were forced to whether you liked it or not, your eyelids being forced outwards by NBC’s Clockwork Orange-like sinister technology”. The winner of the women’s figure skating gold medal, South Korean Kim Yu-Na, just happens to be Catholic, having converted about two years ago. She took the name “Stella”, which literally means “star” and refers to our Lady–Stella Matutina, or Morning Star. CathNews Asia ran this nice story the other day:

Korean Catholics proud of their Olympic champion

Published Date: March 3, 2010

Catholics in Korea were overjoyed to see Stella Kim Yu-na make the sign of the cross during her Gold Medal performance at the Olympic figure skating competition on Feb. 23.

The 19-year-old went on to make a new world record and became South Korea’s first Olympic figure skating champion, winning numerous fans.

“Her crossing herself made me also make the sign of the cross as I watched her performance on TV,” Monica Lee Ji-yun told UCA News. “Her faith in God and her ceaseless training finally paid off,” she added. “As a Catholic, I’m very proud of her.”

Soon after her victory, Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk of Seoul sent her a congratulatory message.

“Stella Kim touched and gave happiness to all Koreans by … overcoming various difficulties and doing her best,” he said in his message, expressing the hope that “lots of young people will gain confidence and hope through Kim’s achievement.”

The cardinal also sent a congratulatory message to Lydia Park Seung-hi, who won two bronze medals.

At the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games held Feb. 12-28 in Canada, South Korea won six gold medals, six silver medals and two bronze medals, ranking seventh in the medal tally.

But the greatest star of them all was Kim who had won numerous figure skating competitions, becoming a national “icon.”

Many youths thought her rosary ring was an engagement ring and media had to explain its usage and meaning.

Kim was baptized in May 2008, along with her mother. Since then, she has always worn a rosary ring and made the sign of the cross when competing.

Kim’s father and older sister do not practice any religion.

Father Ignatius Kim Min-soo told UCA News on March 2, “Big stars like Kim making the sign of the cross in public can help the Church’s evangelization activities indirectly.”

“Her public display of her Catholic identity fills local Catholics with pride and influences non-Catholics too,” said the secretary of the Korean bishops’ Committee for Social Communications.

As a bonus, here is a picture of Stella joyfully displaying her gold medal. She was gracious enough, too, to cover her shoulders with the Korean flag for the benefit of Saint Louis Catholic readers: