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Kim goes back to school for Olympic swansong

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean figure skating queen Kim Yu-na is going back to elementary school in a bid to retain her Olympic title at the Sochi Games in 2014.

After more than a year away from competitive skating, the 22-year-old was reuniting with childhood coaches Shin Hye-sook and Ryu Jong-hyun, her management agency said on Wednesday.

Kim ended speculation over her retirement plans in July by announcing she wanted to hang up her skates with another gold medal at the Sochi Olympics.

"The season is already underway and I know it is a bit too late to bring in coaches," Kim told a news conference at the National Training Center in Seoul.

"But I am back with coaches who were with me at the beginning of my career. I expect to get a great deal of help from them in training and competitions."

A huge celebrity in South Korea, the 2010 Vancouver gold medallist she was currently only "about 70 percent ready" for international competition.

"The focus of my training will be on conditioning," said Kim, who has not competed since taking silver at the 2011 world championships and only appeared in corporate ice shows since.

"Technically I still have a feel for jumps and as long as I can get my strength back, there should be no problem," she added.

"I am also a bit concerned about shaking off rust in competitions. I will try to address every little detail in my preparation."

The change in Kim's coaching staff sees her split with American mentor Peter Oppegard, who has been with her since 2010.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS

Kim blamed her silver behind Japan's Miki Ando at the 2011 world championships on the weight of expectation in Korea, where she is arguably the biggest name in sport.

Shin warned against a repeat in Kim's comeback to competition.

"I was happy that such a world-class skater sought out my help," she said. "At the same time, I felt burdened by expectations and pressure."

Kim scored a record high points in the short programme (78.50), free skate (150.06) and combined points (228.56) in Vancouver.

Despite her reputation, however, Kim did not receive an invitation to skate on the current 2012-13 Grand Prix circuit after sitting out last season.

She will need to score enough technical points in other minor events to qualify for next year's world championships in London, Ontario.

Ryu said even as a child Kim "hated to lose and there are still many ways in which she can improve".

Kim has retained the services of Canadian choreographer David Wilson.

The soundtrack for her short programme will be "The Kiss of the Vampire" and her free skate will be a compilation of songs from "Les Miserables".

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by John O'Brien)

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