Feb. 9 (UPI) — South Korea ranked ninth Friday in the figure skating team event of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics after short programs of the men’s singles and pairs.
Teenage figure skater Cha Jun-hwan performed a clean program to finish sixth out of 10 skaters with a season best of 77.70 points in the men’s singles for the team event, which was held at the Gangneung Ice Arena on the opening day of the Pyeongchang Games.
The pairs team of Kim Kyu-eun and Kam Kang-chan ranked at the bottom with 52.10 points.
In total, the host country received six points based on the rankings from the two disciplines, tied with France, which placed 10th in the men’s singles and sixth in the pairs.
According to the tie breaking rules, however, South Korean skaters earned a combined 129.8 points, slightly above France’s total of 129.55.
In the men’s singles portion, Shoma Uno from Japan topped the field with 103.25 points, followed by Israel’s Alexei Bychenko with 88.49 points and Canada’s Patrick Chan with 81.66.
Nathan Chen from the United States, one of the favorites in the men’s singles, placed fourth with 80.62 points after falling on a quadruple flip.
Skating to “Gypsy Dance” from the ballet “Don Quixote,” the 16-year-old Cha started with a clean triple flip and triple toe loop combination and went through a triple axel, which gave him an additional 0.57 point in grade of execution (GOE).
In the latter part of the program, he cleanly landed the final jump of a triple lutz and wrapped up his short program after a couple of spins and steps.
But Cha was not satisfied with his program, as he is not in perfect form due to a cold.
“I’ve been better in practices. Although I landed all my jumps, I was slower than in practice,” Cha said in a mixed zone interview. “But I did my best until the end of the program.”
He said he will come up with a better performance at the men’s individual singles event next week.
“The audience was really great. They cheered for me. It was really good,” he said.
His coach Brian Oser said his teenage student pulled off his best in his Olympic debut in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
“This is a big competition. He had only one senior competition before this, which was a small one. It was a real test to see how he will manage this,” the Canadian said. “But it was his first performance. He handled that really well. I’m really proud of him.”
Two-time European champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR), earned 80.92 points to take the lead in the pairs section, and Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford finished runner-up with 76.57. Germany’s Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot came next with 75.36.
The Kim-Kam couple made a flawless double twist lift in the beginning of their short program and went through a throw triple salchow and a triple salchow jump.
Due to minor errors in jumps and lifts, their scores lagged slightly behind their season best of 55.02 points set at an international competition last year.
“There were some mistakes. But I’m still satisfied with my performance at my first Winter Olympics,” Kim said after skating. “I’ll do my best to perform better at our individual pairs event next week.”
Kam thanked the home fans who gave big applauses and cheered for their skating, saying they helped him gain more energy and bravery.
The team event is measured by rankings of each player from mens’ singles, ladies’ singles, pairs and ice dances after skating their own programs.
Only the top five teams in total points from the four disciplines’ short programs will compete in the free program on Sunday and Monday.
On Sunday, short programs of ice dances and ladies’ singles and free programs of pairs will take place at the same venue. The team event’s medal will be decided on Monday after free programs of the men’s singles, ladies’ singles and ice dance.