SPORTS

Olympic trials in figure skating to get under way this week

By Yonhap
  • Published : Jul 26, 2017 - 11:25
  • Updated : Aug 11, 2017 - 13:16

The national Olympic trials in figure skating will get under way this week, kicking off a series of three competitions that will determine who will represent the host nation at next year's PyeongChang Winter Games.

The Korea Skating Union will host the "Figure Skating Korea Challenge" at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul starting Thursday, the first leg of the Olympic trials.

The KSU will hold another competition in December, and then the national championships in January will be the final event for Olympic hopefuls.

In the women's singles, South Korea secured two spots in PyeongChang, after Choi Da-bin finished 10th at the world championships in March.

Skaters finishing in the top two at the world championships bring home three Olympic tickets, while those ranked from third to 10th each earn two Olympic berths for their countries.

In this EPA file photo taken on March 29, 2017, Choi Da-bin of South Korea performs her short program during the International Skating Union World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland. (Yonhap)
Choi, who also won the Asian Winter Games gold medal in February, is the favorite to win one of the two PyeongChang spots. The 17-year-old will face challenges from two rivals coming off injury-plagued seasons.

Park So-youn, 19, broke her left ankle in practice last December, a serious injury that kept her out of the Asian Winter Games. Park will try to bounce back as she enters her fifth senior season.

Kim Na-hyun, 17, battled ankle pains over the latter half of last season and had to pull out of the world championships.

It was Choi who rose to the occasion in their absence. As a replacement for Park at the Asian Winter Games, Choi became the first South Korean female skater to win gold at the competition. Then in place of Kim, Choi cracked the top 10 at the worlds to win two Olympic spots for South Korea.

Choi has had her share of difficulties in the offseason, with the passing of her mother in June.

Choi is the highest-ranked South Korean woman in the world at No. 18, while Park is 23rd and Kim is 41st. Choi also boasts the personal best score of 191.11 points, compared with Park's 185.19 and Kim's 177.27.

In the men's singles, South Korea hasn't secured Olympic berths, and the winner of the Figure Skating Korea Challenge will compete at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in September, the last Olympic qualifying competition. Six spots will be up for grabs.
In this file photo taken on Jan. 8, 2017, Cha Jun-hwan of South Korea performs his free skate at the 71st National Figure Skating Championships at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)
Cha Jun-hwan, a rising star at 15, appears to be the favorite. In his first junior season, Cha won two competitions during the International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix season, and finished third at the Junior Grand Prix Final and fifth at the junior worlds.

He's an improving technician who has decided to include quad jumps in both his short program and free skate for the new season. Last season, Cha only did a quad in his free skate.

Kim Jin-seo, two-time senior national champion, may be Cha's closest competition. At the world championships in March, Kim only ranked 26th after the short program and failed to bring home any Olympic ticket.

Cha has the career-best score of 242.45 points, while Kim's personal best is 207.34. (Yonhap)