South Korean figure skater Choi Da-bin said Thursday she's still struggling to regain her form in the build-up to next year's Winter Olympics.
Choi is scheduled to compete in the second round of the national qualification event for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul this weekend.
Choi won the first qualifying event in July with a total score of 181.79 points, more than 12 points ahead of the runner-up, Kim Ha-nul.
The third and the final leg of the qualifying will be the national championship during the first weekend of January. The combined performances from all three events will determine who will represent South Korea on home ice.
The Olympic host will send two skaters to the ladies' singles at PyeongChang 2018. Choi secured those two Olympic berths for the country by placing 10th at the World Figure Skating Championships earlier this year.
And the 17-year-old is in the driver's seat to lock down one of those two tickets. If Choi qualifies, PyeongChang will be her first Winter Olympics.
South Korean figure skater Choi Da-bin practices at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul on Nov. 30, 2017, ahead of the national qualifying competition for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)
At the pre-competition press conference Thursday, however, Choi said she has yet to reach her peak form from the 2016-2017 season, during which she also won the Asian Winter Games gold medal in Sapporo, Japan, in February. Choi even said she felt like she'd reached the lowest point of her career during the current season.
Choi's struggles have mostly to do with her skates. She's been dealing with lingering left foot pains all season, caused by a loose pair of boots.
"I've been wearing the same model from the same brand all my career, but it's out of production now," Choi said. "I settled for a similar pair, and it's taken me a long time to get used to them. I am still trying to reach my top form, and I feel like I am getting there."
Choi attended the press conference with a bag of ice on her left foot. Choi withdrew from the Asian Open Figure Skating Trophy in August due to her food issues. She competed at the Cup of China during the International Skating Union Grand Prix season but finished a disappointing ninth with 165.99 points. Choi then skipped her next scheduled Grand Prix event, Skate America, earlier this month.
"I would have competed in that Grand Prix event if not for my foot injury," she said. "It swelled quite a bit just before the competition. The swelling has gone done since then, but I still have to ice the foot after practices."
Choi said she doesn't really have high expectations for herself this weekend, adding she's still trying to land her jumps more consistently.
"At the first Olympic qualifying event, I didn't perform any difficult elements because I didn't really feel prepared," Choi said. "But I feel like I am getting better and better, and I'll try to land a triple-triple jump combination that I did last season. Even if I don't land it cleanly, it will be a good learning experience."
Asked how she's bracing herself for PyeongChang, Choi said she won't look too far down the road.
"Nothing is set in stone in the qualification, and we still have two more rounds to go," she said. "I only want to stay focused on the remaining qualifying events and to become steadier and more consistent with my programs." (Yonhap)