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16-year-old figure skating prodigy gets ready for Games

Jan 12,2018
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Cha Jun-hwan poses for a photo during a press conference in central Seoul on Thursday. [YONHAP]
Cha Jun-hwan, who earlier this week dramatically grabbed Korea’s lone spot in men’s singles figure skating for the 2018 Winter Olympics, said Thursday he plans to thoroughly prepare himself for the first Winter Games in the country.

In a neck-and-neck competition, the 16-year-old figure skater edged out his 21-year-old rival Lee June-hyoung on Sunday’s final leg of the Olympic trials, by only 2.13 points. Cha’s victory was not expected by many, especially as he had been suffering from pain in his ankle and hip.

The young skater opted to attempt only one quadruple jump, instead of two, in his free skate in a bid to avoid risks. The strategy was successful.

Considering his age, Cha had been considered a more likely prospect for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. The PyeongChang Games could be a chance for him to gain experience before he can really blossom in China four years from now.

“Although I should have a big goal for PyeongChang, I plan to focus on putting forth my best effort with the best program,” said the young phenom during a press conference in central Seoul. “I have not set a specific goal in terms of scores or ranking for PyeongChang.”

Cha said he hopes to gain a lot of experience through the Winter Games, and prepare for other future events as well.

“After it was confirmed that I’d made the Olympics, I took a break on Monday and had treatment at a clinic,” Cha said. “One day later, I resumed my regular training.”

He is set to depart to Canada this week to continue his Olympic training.

Brian Orser, who coached legendary Korean female skater Kim Yuna to her 2010 Olympic gold medal, will also be by Cha’s side at the PyeongChang Games. Orser has been working with Cha since March 2015.

As was the case at the Olympic trials, Cha said he plans to refrain from moves that are too physically demanding.

“I may maintain the current level of difficulty in the program,” Cha said. “If my injury improves, I may also come up with more complex programs after consultations with Orser.”

The Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang and Gangneung, a sub-host city, which will be the main venue for ice sports.

Yonhap