INTERVIEW-Olympics-Gold medallist Kim in showdown with Witt

LAUSANNE, Switzerland Tue May 17, 2011 2:04pm EDT

LAUSANNE, Switzerland May 17 (Reuters) - Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yuna goes head to head with twice Olympic gold medallist Katarina Witt on Wednesday although the clash of two of the sport's biggest names will not be on the ice.

Kim, who won gold at last year's Vancouver Games and is known as "Queen Yuna" to her fans, is backing South Korea's bid to land the 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang while Witt, gold medallist in 1984 and 1988, heads Munich's rival candidacy.

"She is a role model for all figure skaters and I am so excited to meet her here," Kim told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday after rehearsing her part in Pyeongchang's presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) the next day.

"I have watched her skate on videos and the Internet. It is a great honour to meet her."

Kim has met Witt, who won her gold medals while competing for what was then East Germany before the South Korean was even born, only once before, at the Vancouver Olympics.

"I am excited to meet her here again," Kim said. "It is interesting (to have two Olympic figure skaters in rival bids)."

The South Korean mountain resort is bidding for the third successive time to land the Games with Munich and France's Annecy the other two contenders.

All three candidates will present their plans to about 100 IOC members on Wednesday and Thursday for the last time before the day of final vote on July 6.

NERVOUS CHAMPION

For Kim it will be a completely different arena with a different set of spectators and the 20-year-old is already feeling the pressure.

"I am kind of nervous but also excited. Fewer spectators in that room," she said, sitting on the terrace of the Olympic museum overlooking Lake Geneva with the French Alps in the distance.

"Maybe I am nervous, more than competing in the Olympics. I am afraid of making a mistake.

Kim, who had to settle for silver at the world championships in late April, said she had wanted Pyeongchang to land the Games in 2010.

"To skate in front of home fans in what were my first Olympics would have been great," she said.

She now hopes her presence will help inspire younger Asian athletes to take up winter sports as well as help bring the Games back to Asia and for the first time to a country other than Japan, which has hosted both previous winter Olympics held on the continent.

"I watched (silver medallist) Michelle Kwan skate at the Nagano Olympics in Japan in 1998 and was inspired. I had a dream for the Olympics and I achieved my dream a year ago," she said, speaking in English and Korean.

"Now I hope young athletes (in Asia) can be inspired by those competing in 2018," she said.

Kim, who has moved to Los Angeles to train, said she had cleared her schedule until August to put her efforts into Pyeongchang's bid and would also attend the IOC vote in Durban, South Africa in July.

If Pyeongchang gets the nod, Kim would like to stay on and work for the South Korean host city.

"Of course I would like that," she said. (Editing by Sonia Oxley; To query or comment on this story: sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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