Cha Jun-hwan wins men’s free skate to help S. Korea take silver at World Team Trophy

April 17, 2023

With its captain putting on a strong performance under pressure, South Korea captured the silver medal in its first debut at the International Skating Union (ISU) World Team Trophy in Figure Skating on Saturday.

Cha Jun-hwan, leader of the South Korean team, won the men’s singles free skate with 187.82 points, scoring 12 ranking points for the country at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Tokyo.

Thanks to Cha’s showing, South Korea finished with 95 points overall, one ahead of Japan for the silver. The United States won the gold with 120 points.

South Korea was competing in the World Team Trophy for the first time. The ISU event, first held in 2009, features six nations based on their individual skaters’ performances over the course of a season.

Cha and Lee Hae-in helped South Korea punch its first ticket to the World Team Trophy by grabbing silver in the men’s and women’s singles at the world championships last month.

South Korea entered Saturday in second place at 75 points, one point higher than Japan.

In the pairs free skating earlier in the day, Cho Hye-jin and Steven Adcock finished in last place among the six teams, collecting just seven points for South Korea. Japan picked up 11 points in the pairs after Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara finished in second place.

In the men’s free skate, the last event of the competition, the first South Korean competitor, Lee Si-hyeong, finished last among a dozen skaters and earned only one point for his country.

Cha, who ranked second in Thursday’s short program, was the second-to-last to take to the ice, and he had to finish inside the top two to keep South Korea in second place over Japan.

Cha then came through with a solid, though not flawless, skate that helped him edge out Matteo Rizzo of Italy by 0.47 point for first place and 12 points.

Two Japanese skaters, Shun Sato and Kazuki Tomono, finished eighth and ninth, respectively, earning a combined nine points.

Cha’s victory in the men’s free skate followed Lee Hae-in’s win in the women’s free skate from Friday. Also in the women’s event, Kim Ye-lim ranked third in the free skate.