Yuna Kim slightly opened the narrow door, and Junhwan Cha and Lee Haein opened it again.
#1. As a child actress, she appeared in dramas such as The Return of Iljimae and took commercials such as Orion Choco Pie. She skated because it would be nice to experience different things. And “I like the cool feeling of cutting through the wind”, so I fell in love with it right away. That was when I was in the second year of elementary school. The boy grew up and became the ‘first’ in male figure skating in Korea. This is Cha Jun-hwan (21, Korea University).
#2. I went to an ice show featuring Yuna Kim. The first thing that caught her eye was the ‘sparkling outfit’. Jumping on the ice was just amazing. From then on, she begged her parents. She said “she wants to be a figure skater”. Eight years later, the girl was the youngest Korean figure skater ever to make it to the top 10 in the world. This is Lee Hae-in (17, Sehwa Girls’ High School).
Cha Jun-hwan, the first Korean male figure skater,
stood side by side on the men’s and women’s singles podium for the first time in history at the 2023 International Skating Union (ISU) Figure Skating World Championships, which ended on March 25 in Saitama, Japan. Lee Hae-in first won the silver medal for the first time in 10 years since Kim Yu-na (retired), and Cha Jun-hwan also took second place the next day. Until now, Kim Yu-na was the only Korean athlete to win a medal at the World Figure Skating Championships. Korea was a ‘badass figure skating’ where it was difficult to even get into the top 10. However, Cha Jun-hwan and Lee Hae-in opened the narrow door that Yuna Kim had slightly opened. Thanks to the two’s performance, Korea won three tickets each for men’s and women’s singles at the 2024 Figure Skating World Championships.
Cha Jun-hwan is unrivaled in Korean men’s figure skating. Like Kim Yuna of women’s singles, his path is becoming the history of men’s singles. He shone from his junior days. In the 2016-17 season, he became the first Korean male player to win Junior Grand Prix medals twice in one season, and was the first Korean male player to win a bronze medal in the Junior Grand Prix Final.
He was the youngest among all men’s singles players at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, and he left history with the highest ranking (15th) in the Korean men’s figure skating Olympics. In the 2018-19 season, he advanced to the Korean men’s first senior Grand Prix Final and won a bronze medal. There were many restrictions as he was unable to train abroad due to the Corona 19 pandemic, but at the 2021 World Championships, he became the first Korean male player to rank in the top 10 (10th), and at the 2022 Four Continents Championships, he stood at the top of the podium (gold medal) for the first time. . It is the result of overcoming a hip injury.
At the Olympics (2022 Beijing Olympics), which he participated in for the second time in his life, he raised his ranking to the utmost. Due to his expressiveness, he is ranked 5th in the world. Then, while Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan) retired and Nathan Chen (USA) skipped a season to study, he managed to become the world’s top two with his personal best score at the World Championships.
Cha Jun-hwan’s strength is that he has excellent song interpretation. His ability to perform choreography, transmitted through his fingertips and toes, was further maximized by the ballet and modern dance he learned from an early age. He jumped fewer quadruple jumps (four rotations in the air) than his competitors at this world championship, which is why he was able to finish second. Focusing more on process than result, he plans to further hone his quadruple jump in preparation for the 2026 Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Olympics. He said, “Ultimately, I will train so that I can use high-level skills such as 4-3 rotation combination jumps and quadruple flips.” With the advent of a player (Ilya Malinin, USA) who jumps up to a quadruple axel (4.5 rotations in the air), improving the perfection of the quadruple jump has become more important.
Lee Hae-in, bursting into tears in anger on days when he can’t jump.
Hae-in Lee also stood out from his junior days like Cha Jun-hwan. He completed the triple pentathlon jump around 5th grade in elementary school. On days when he couldn’t jump, he burst into tears in anger. When he got the hang of jumping, he didn’t come home at all and slept in the rink. He would practice past midnight until 2am, then go to sleep and wake up at 7am to practice. Lee Hae-in said, “I was in the midst of learning the triple jump, so I had a strong desire to jump even a little more.”
Lee Hae-in’s efforts led directly to junior competition results. In September 2019, at the age of 14, Lee Hae-in won the 3rd and 6th ISU Junior Grand Prix in a row. At the 2021 World Championships, he recorded the record of being the youngest Korean figure skater to top 10 (10th) at the World Championships. That was Haein Lee’s senior debut stage. Thanks to his performance, Korea secured two tickets to participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
However, he was unable to stand on the stage in Beijing. While experiencing poor physical condition during the national team selection match, the tickets to the Olympics went back to Yoo Young and Kim Ye-rim. I also had a big scar on myself. However, Lee Hae-in did not give up or get frustrated. Just like his motto, “If you don’t even try, you don’t even have a chance to succeed,” he looked for another opportunity. Lee Hae-in, who quietly sharpened his knife, ranked 7th at the 2022 World Championships. At the 2023 Four Continents Championships, she won the gold medal for the first time in 13 years since Yuna Kim in 2009. Even after placing sixth in the short program, she turned around with a clean performance in the free skating. And this time, with her personal best, she won the world championship silver medal. Lee Hae-in said after the tournament, “I had some doubts about myself (after failing to participate in the Olympics), but I did not give up.” “I found confidence through this tournament.” 안전놀이터
Lee Hae-in, who usually likes drawing and writing, will challenge the triple axel (3.5 rotations in the air) in the 2023-24 season. She has a tough task but needs to upgrade her skills. This is because Russian athletes, a powerhouse in figure skating, did not participate in the World Championships due to sanctions.
Cha Jun-hwan and Lee Hae-in’s greatest weapon is their ‘positive mind’. I believe that there is something to be gained from various failures. Lee Hae-in says, “Every day I skate, every time I go to a competition, I learn something. Every day is a continuation of learning.” Cha Jun-hwan also said, “I enjoy the sense of accomplishment I get after failing several times. It’s a human desire to take on challenges, but when something that was difficult succeeds, ‘Why did this succeed now?’ I feel like doing it”
Cha Jun-hwan once said, “Skate is my life guide.” “It’s because I feel like I’m steadily walking the road ahead and growing more and more as a skater and as a human being.” The moment I stood on the ice, there was glory, trial, and pain. What is clear is that both Cha Jun-hwan and Lee Hae-in love skating very much. That’s why ‘Yuna Kids’ challenge the world again and again today without hesitation. Carving your name on the ice.