Lee Hae-in hopes to end year on top

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Lee Hae-in hopes to end year on top


Lee Hae-in poses with her gold medal at the International Skating Union (ISU) Junior Grand Prix event in Zagreb, Croatia, on Sept. 30. [YONHAP]

Korean teen figure skater Lee Hae-in has already had a historic season on the ice. She’ll look to cap it all off with another monumental victory this week.

Lee, 14, is the only Korean to have qualified for the International Skating Union (ISU) Junior Grand Prix Final, which will open in Turin, Italy, on Thursday.

The short program for the ladies’ singles was scheduled to begin at 5:50 p.m. Thursday in Turin, or 1:50 a.m. today in Seoul. The free skating will start at 4:20 p.m. today in Italy, or 12:20 a.m. Saturday in Korea.

Only the top six skaters and teams from the men’s and ladies’ singles, pairs and dance, after seven Junior Grand Prix events, have earned their spots in the Junior Grand Prix Final. And Lee won two gold medals, first in Latvia and then in Croatia, both in September, to become the first Korean since former Olympic and world champion Kim Yuna in 2005 to win multiple Junior Grand Prix titles in one season.

Kim won silver in the 2004 Junior Grand Prix Final and then captured gold a year later. No Korean woman has reached the Junior Grand Prix Final podium since Kim, and Lee appears poised to join the iconic star in the exclusive company.

In winning the Junior Grand Prix in Croatia, Lee set a new personal best with 69.29 points in the short program and 134.11 points in the free skate for a total of 203.40 points. Only two other Korean women, Kim and Lim Eun-soo, have scored over 200 points at an ISU competition.

If Lee were to reach the top of the podium in Turin, she’ll have to go through Russian teens.

Of the six skaters in the ladies’ singles, only Lee and Alysa Liu of the United States are non-Russians. Kamila Valieva is the top qualifier in the field. And she’s joined by three countrywomen, Kseniia Sinitsyna, Daria Usacheva and Viktoria Vasilieva, as they’ll look to pull off a Russian podium sweep for the third straight Junior Grand Prix Final.

The past nine Junior Grand Prix Final champions in the ladies’ singles have come from Russia.

Both Valieva and Liu are armed with a quadruple jump in their arsenal, something that Lee is lacking. Liu is the first female skater to land a triple axel and a quadruple jump in one program, while Valieva does a quadruple toe loop in her free skate.

If they land those high-risk, high-reward quad jumps, Valieva and Liu will enjoy a substantial edge over Lee in technical scores, and the Korean will have to make up for the deficit with her choreography and overall artistry of her programs.

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