South Korean figure skater Cha Jun-hwan trains at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on Saturday, in preparation for the Beijing Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)
With his confidence running high after a recent international victory, South Korean figure skater Cha Jun-hwan will try to push himself into medal contention at Beijing 2022 with three quadruple jumps.
After nailing a quadruple salchow multiple times in practice on Saturday, Cha said he plans to do a quadruple salchow in the short program and then a quadruple salchow and a quadruple toe loop in the free skate.
The salchow jump has the base score of 9.70 points and the toe loop has a 9.50 base score. For successful elements, skaters will each receive extra points in grade of execution (GOE) scores.
In winning the International Skating Union (ISU) Four Continents Figure Skating Championships title late January in Estonia, Cha landed his quadruple salchow cleanly in the short program. He repeated that feat in the free skate but was docked for under-rotating his quad toe loop. Still, he earned a new personal-best score of 273.22 points.
"I should be able to peak in time for my first day of competition," Cha said Saturday, with the short program scheduled for Tuesday followed by the free skate on Thursday. "I am full of confidence after winning the Four Continents."
Cha said he is at about "60 to 70 percent" in terms of his physical readiness, but he looked perfectly fine on the ice Saturday. In addition to his quad jumps, Cha also pulled off flawless triple axel and triple-triple combination jumps.
This is Cha's second Winter Games. Four years ago at PyeongChang, Cha, 16, was still rough around the edges. He was also dealing with hip issues and, during the Olympics, came down with flu.
"I was in no shape to even attempt a quadruple jump back then, but I challenged myself to do it," said Cha, who fell trying to land a quadruple salchow in the free skate in 2018. "Now, I've taken care of my body much better and I am more experienced. I am confident."
With figure skating increasingly becoming a battle of ruthless technical efficiency, executing multiple quadruple jumps is a prerequisite to winning a medal.
Quad jumps are a high-risk, high-reward element of figure skating. Most men attempt them but not all of them land those jumps with consistency.
The two-time defending champion from Japan, Yuzuru Hanyu, and the three-time world champion from the United States, Nathan Chen, should be head and shoulders above others.
If Cha catches fire and lands all three of his quad jumps cleanly, he could be among those fighting for bronze, especially given his consistently excellent choreography and artistry.
After Cha's first training session on Friday, his Canadian-born coach, Brian Orser, said a medal for Cha was "not out of the question."
Cha, who often speaks of the need to focus on the process but not the result, stuck to his familiar tune.
"I think (Orser) wanted me to feel more confident. I want to focus on doing a clean program," Cha said. "Obviously, like every other athlete, I'd love to win a medal, but I want to concentrate on the process." (Yonhap)