Lee established a new career high of 148.74 points in free skate for a total of 222.89, also a personal best, to rank fifth among 26 at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, on Friday (local time). This is the last qualifying competition for PyeongChang 2018, and the top six skaters from countries that hadn't already qualified each earned a spot for their nations.
Lee had also set a personal best with 74.37 points in Thursday's short program.
Jorik Hendrickx of Belgium won the competition with 253.06 points, followed by Alexander Johnson of the United States. But since the U.S. already had an Olympic spot secured, the top seven skaters other than Johnson -- from Belgium, Sweden (third), Italy (fourth), South Korea, Malaysia (sixth) and Ukraine (seventh) -- each took home an Olympic ticket.
The last South Korean man to skate in the men's singles at a Winter Games is Lee Kyu-hyun in 2002. No South Korean man has qualified for the Winter Olympics through the Nebelhorn Trophy.
Lee still isn't guaranteed to represent the host country next February, for there are still two more rounds of South Korean Olympic trials left.
In July, Lee got a head start by winning the Figure Skating Korea Challenge, which doubled as the first round. The Korea Skating Union (KSU) will hold another qualifying competition in December, and the national championships in January next year will be the third and final event for South Korean Olympic hopefuls.
Earlier at the Nebelhorn Trophy, South Korea failed to earn a spot in the pairs. The ice dance team of Min Yu-ra and Alexander Gamelin is seventh after the short dance, with the free dance scheduled for Saturday. They must place in the top six among those from countries that haven't already qualified.
In the ladies' singles, Choi Da-bin secured two spots for South Korea by placing 10th at the world championships earlier this year. (Yonhap)