Cha Jun-hwan gets bronze at Grand Prix Final

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Cha Jun-hwan gets bronze at Grand Prix Final

Figure skater Cha Jun-hwan captured the bronze medal at the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, becoming the first man from the country to reach the podium at the prestigious event.


Cha Jun-hwan of Korea skates during the men’s free skate at figure skating’s Grand Prix Final in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Friday. [AP/YONHAP]

Cha scored 263.49 points overall to finish behind Nathan Chen of the United States (282.42) and Shoma Uno of Japan (275.10) at the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver on Friday.

Cha set a new personal best with 174.42 points in free skate at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. It was the third-best free skate score in the field of six. Cha received 91.58 points for his technical element score and 83.84 points in the program component score.

His previous best score in free skate was 169.22 points, set in September at a ISU Challenger Series event.

Cha was in fourth place after Thursday’s short program with 89.07 points, but he was sitting only 0.14 point behind Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic.

After six Grand Prix competitions, only the top six skaters or teams in each discipline qualified for the Grand Prix Final. Cha earned his spot on the strength of two third-place finishes. The 17-year-old is the first Korean man ever to skate in the Grand Prix Final, and the first from Korea since Kim Yu-na in 2009 to qualify for the event.

And no one outside of Kim had ever won a Grand Prix Final medal before Cha joined her Friday. Kim, the 2010 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion, collected three gold and one silver in her four Grand Prix Final appearances.

Cha, the second skater to take the ice, had a wobbly start to his free skate program, as he fell on the landing of his opening quadruple toe loop.

But that turned out to be Cha’s only miscue. He regrouped for a perfect quadruple salchow and earned 3.05 additional points in his grade of execution (GOE). He executed a clean triple lutz-triple loop combination, which netted him 1.1 GOE points. After smooth steps and spins, Cha nailed challenging triple jumps and combination jumps in succession, and completed the best free skate of his career with a change foot sit spin.

Cha said he was pleased with the way he overcame an early miscue and nerves to reach the podium in his first Grand Prix Final appearance.

“I felt great in practice, and I was angry at myself for not landing the first jump,” Cha said. “But I had a lot of time left, and I tried to stay focused on the rest of the program.”

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