[PyeongChang 2018] Self-confidence key for leader in Olympic figure skating qualification

By Yonhap
  • Published : Nov 30, 2017 - 16:52
  • Updated : Nov 30, 2017 - 16:52

Even after taking the lead in the national Olympic qualification, South Korean male figure skater Lee June-hyoung is still fighting self-doubt.

Lee won the first qualifying competition for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in July. The second leg is scheduled for this weekend at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul, and at a pre-competition press conference at the rink, Lee said he just has to trust himself more.

"Because I did so well in the first qualification event, I do feel the pressure that I have to match that performance," said Lee, who scored 228.72 total points, his highest at a domestic competition, in the July competition. "And if I don't skate as well this week and fall behind, then I'll have a lot of catching up to do. These thoughts keep creeping into my mind, but I have to have more faith in myself."

And by winning the first qualification event over Kim Jin-seo and Cha Jun-hwan, Lee, 21, also earned the right to compete at the Nebelhorn Trophy in September. It was the last competition for skaters to grab Olympic tickets for their countries, and Lee secured a berth for South Korea by finishing fifth with a new international career-best of 222.89 points.

South Korean figure skater Lee June-hyoung practices at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul on Nov. 30, 2017, ahead of the national qualifying competition for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)

But there are still two more rounds of the national qualification remaining and with Kim only trailing by 5.23 points, Lee needs to keep up his momentum.

And Lee said he isn't going to deviate from his safe, conservative routines that don't include a quadruple jump -- a rarity in the men's figure skating where technical prowess is increasingly becoming a necessity.

"I thought about doing a quadruple jump at this competition, but my coach was against the idea," Lee said. "I changed my skate boots about a month ago, and I wasn't landing my quad jumps in practice with much consistency anyway."

Kim, also 21, said he's looking forward to competing with Lee for the Olympic spot, and he's ready to accept whatever the results may be in the end.

"Obviously, everyone dreams of skating in the Olympics, and nobody wants to give anyone else an inch in these competitions," Kim said. "We'll all have a fair battle and whoever ends up going to the Olympics, I will cheer on him from the bottom of my heart. I hope we can all finish the qualification stage without an injury and pull for the guy who gets to skate in the Olympics."

Cha, the youngest of the three contenders at 16, has had a disappointing 2017-2018 season so far. Hampered by ankle and hip injuries, Cha finished a distant third at the first national Olympic qualifying event. He skipped an International Skating Union Grand Prix event earlier for precautionary reasons, so he could rest and prepare for the second qualification stage.

"I don't think I am 100 percent yet, but I am definitely better than I was before the first qualifying event," Cha said. "I don't want to push myself too hard this week. I'll try to do the best I can under the circumstances." (Yonhap)