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Figure skater poised for history; skeleton slider begins gold medal defense

South Korean figure skater Cha Jun-hwan performs his short program in the men's singles competition at the Beijing Winter Olympics at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
South Korean figure skater Cha Jun-hwan performs his short program in the men's singles competition at the Beijing Winter Olympics at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Figure skater Cha Jun-hwan will try to make a piece of South Korean Olympic history Thursday when he takes the ice for the men's singles free skate at Beijing 2022.

Cha finished Tuesday's short program in fourth place with 99.51 points, his new personal best. Shoma Uno of Japan, the reigning silver medalist, is in third at 105.90 points.

Cha will be hard pressed to close that seemingly small gap. He will only attempt two quadruple jumps, while Uno has attempted four or five quad jumps in his free skate. Cha will have to be close to perfect to outscore skaters who include more quad jumps in their routine.

Cha does have a great shot at finishing in the top five, though. Cha himself owns the current South Korean record for the best Olympic performances by a male figure skater with his 15th-place finish at PyeongChang 2018. He has grown by leaps and bounds since then.

Also on Thursday, the defending men's skeleton champion Yun Sung-bin will begin his gold medal defense with the first two runs at Yanqing National Sliding Centre in Yanqing District, northwest of Beijing.

Yun is in the midst of a mediocre season. In the lead-up to Beijing, he has repeatedly said he doesn't regard himself as a medal threat, given his current form.

His teammate, Jung Seung-gi, may be better positioned, having recently grabbed his first career medal, a bronze, in the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation World Cup.

The women's curling team, led by skip Kim Eun-jung, will take on Canada to begin its Olympics on Thursday. Kim's team won a surprise silver medal in 2018, and the curlers will run it back in Beijing. (Yonhap)

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