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S. Korean figure skaters to test mettle against int'l stars on home ice

You Young (AP-Yonhap)
You Young (AP-Yonhap)

Budding South Korean figure skaters will go up against some of the sport's biggest stars at an international competition on home ice this week.

The Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, organized by the International Skating Union (ISU), will run from Thursday to Sunday at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul. Skaters from Asia, the Americas, Oceania and Africa -- four of the continents represented by the Olympic Rings -- will compete in four disciplines: men's singles, ladies' singles, pairs and ice dance.

South Korea last hosted this annual event in 2017.

The Four Continents was first held in 1999, in response to the European championship. And South Korea has produced just one medalist, the 2009 ladies' singles champion, Kim Yu-na.

This year, a trio of South Korean women will try to end the drought in the singles, led by the 15-year-old You Young.

You, fresh off a Winter Youth Olympics gold medal last month, is the only South Korean female to perform triple axel. She also has a bronze medal from Skate Canada, one of six ISU Grand Prix stops, and recently won her third straight national title.

Former junior standouts Lim Eun-soo and Kim Ye-lim will also take the ice at Mokdong.

They'll have to contend with the defending champion from Japan, Rika Kihira. The 17-year-old is even more technically accomplished than You, and the Japanese is the first woman to land a triple axel-triple jump combination at an ISU competition.

Kihira's personal best score is 233.12 points from December 2018 at the ISU Grand Prix Final, and her season best is 231.84 from November 2019 at the NHK Trophy.

You, currently in her first senior season, has both the season and personal best of 217.49.

Also representing Japan in the ladies' singles will be Wakaba Higuchi, the 2018 world silver medalist, and Kaori Sakamoto, the 2018 Four Continents champion.

In the men's singles, Cha Jun-hwan will look to bounce back from a season-long slump.

In his first senior season in 2018-2019, Cha took bronze at the Grand Prix Final, one of five medals he won at an ISU event. He was in second place after the short program at the 2019 Four Continents before ended up sixth overall.

The development of the 18-year-old has slowed this season, as he's struggled to land quadruple jumps with consistency. Cha has yet to win an international medal this season, his second straight South Korean national title being the only win of any note.

While Cha still represents the host country's best medal hope, any path to the podium will likely go through Yuzuru Hanyu, the two-time defending Olympic champion from Japan.

In addition to his two Olympic gold medals, Hanyu has claimed two world titles and four Grand Prix Final titles. He has yet to win a Four Continents gold, with three silvers in three appearances so far.

Jin Boyang of China, the 2018 Four Continents champion, and Jason Brown, the reigning US national silver medalist, will try to keep Hanyu away from the top of the podium.

The competition will open at 11 a.m. with the rhythm dance portion of ice dance, followed by the pairs short program and the ladies' short program.

Friday will feature free dance in ice dance and the men's short program. The free programs for both the ladies' singles and the pairs will be Saturday. The men's singles champion will be crowned after Sunday's free skate. (Yonhap)



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