After making national history at virtually every stop this season, South Korean teenage figure skater Cha Jun-hwan will look to make even more in his season finale this week.
Cha, 15, will take the ice at the International Skating Union World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei. The men's short program is scheduled for Wednesday, followed by free skate on Thursday.
|In this file photo taken on Jan. 8, 2017, South Korean figure skater Cha Jun-hwan performs his free skate routine at the 71st National Figure Skating Championships at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)|
No South Korean man has reached the podium at the junior worlds.
Cha finished seventh at last year's championships. Jung Sung-il owns the record for the best performance by a South Korean male skater with a sixth-place finish at the 1988 event.
And in the midst of a banner season, Cha looks poised to rewrite the record books this week.
Cha won two events during this past ISU Junior Grand Prix season, first in Yokohama, Japan, in September and then in Dresden, Germany, the following month. In the earlier victory, Cha set a then world junior record with 239.47 total points. He is also only the second South Korean skater, after former Olympic champion Kim Yu-na, to win multiple Junior Grand Prix titles in one season.
Cha qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final in December, open only to the top six skaters from the season, and placed third. No other South Korean man had even won a medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final before Cha.
At the world championships, Cha's main competition should come from the two Russians who finished ahead of the South Korean at the Junior Grand Prix Final.
In winning the Grand Prix Final gold, Dmitri Aliev broke Cha's previous record with 240.07 points overall. Alexander Samarin finished with 236.52 points, beating Cha by nearly 11 points for second place.
Coached by former Canadian star Brian Orser in Toronto, Cha has decided to add an extra quadruple jump to his free skate.
Cha has only done a quadruple salchow so far this season, but will also try to land a quadruple toe loop at the worlds.
Cha is regarded by some as an outside medal hopeful at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, though, given his age, he may be a more mature and complete skater by the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)