“I think I have developed and grown a lot since I came this far. Going through the two Olympics, Pyeongchang and Beijing, I think I was given an opportunity to change and develop as an athlete.”
Cha Jun-hwan (22, Korea University), who debuted on the world junior stage in 2016 as a young middle school student, has now stood tall as a Korean figure skating ‘captain’ after about 7 years. Unlike the women’s division, which received a lot of attention because of the world-famous star Kim Yuna, the men’s division was barren. Cha Jun-hwan, who was the first Korean male figure skater to walk in the Olympics and world championships, reached its peak in the 2022-23 season like a flower in full bloom in a desolate barren land. He says, “I am more satisfied that I am following my motto ‘Constantly growing at my own pace’.”
Cha Jun-hwan, a former child actor, started figure skating at the age of 8, and emerged as a Korean men’s golf star by performing a four-round jump in his junior debut season in 2016. He was the first Korean male to win the Junior Grand Prix and win the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final, but after his senior debut, he fell into a slump due to injuries in 2020-21.
Cha Jun-hwan, who overcame this and became the first Korean male athlete to win the Four Continents Championships last year and splendidly revived, placed 5th at the Beijing Winter Olympics, the best ever. Last month at the world championships, he played an ‘all clean’ game and wrote a new history by winning a silver medal.
In a recent interview with E-Daily, Cha Jun-hwan cited ‘physical training’ as the secret to such good results. He said, “After the Beijing Olympics, which was a big event, I needed time to gather my mind for the 2026 Olympic cycle in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. During that time, I made up my mind to make his body better and exercise harder, and thanks to thorough preparation, I got good grades as the season went on.”
He was not satisfied with the Beijing Olympics, and afterward, he pondered a lot to decide his direction. Even after the set ground training was over, he volunteered for additional training such as running and basic physical training for an hour or two every day. He was able to play the best game because he built indefatigable stamina and added technical and artistic performance.
Cha Jun-hwan led his older brothers and younger siblings to the team trophy in the official team event organized by the International Skating Union (ISU), which ended earlier this month, as captain, and also achieved the first silver medal together. He became the first Korean player to cross the 100-point mark in the short program (101.33 points), and in the free skating, he placed first with a near-perfect game, creating a drama in which he beat Japan by only one point and came in second.
Cha Jun-hwan recalled that his first encounter with figure skating at the age of 8 was just a coincidence. However, he soon fell in love with figure skating. Cha Jun-hwan said that the reason he still cannot let go of the figure after 15 years is that he can live the life of that character by giving it to the game program.
He said, “The biggest attraction of figure skating is that it is accompanied by music even though it is a sport. As a person who listens to music a lot, I tend to come up with a lot of ideas when making programs. The Michael Jackson medley and the 007 James Bond series, which were introduced this season, are also songs I chose, and many of my ideas are included.”
Cha Jun-hwan, who looks like the main character of a romance cartoon or an idol, has a harder inner side than he looks. In 2020-21, right before the Beijing Olympics, he fell into a slump. He experienced difficulties as the practice environment changed when he came to Korea from Canada due to Corona 19, and all the rinks in the metropolitan area were closed, so he had to go to Gangneung and Pohang to practice. To make matters worse, injuries such as a herniated disc and calf muscle rupture plagued him. Cha Jun-hwan himself even said that the time was an ordeal. However, Cha Jun-hwan played a big role in the Beijing Winter Olympics, where he managed to win a ticket to participate, and made his name known.
He said, “Should I say that I think simply? I tend to think only of what is given to me,” he said, revealing the secret to overcoming the slump, saying, “Especially when I play, I focus only on what I have to do.” Cha Jun-hwan said, “Ahead of this World Championship, I prepared thoroughly enough to say that I practiced without lacking anything. Even if you prepare perfectly for figure skating, mistakes can happen, so I played with the mindset of ‘trust in what I have done so far, but let’s not make it too complicated’.”
He replied, “It would be an honor if you think of it that way,” to the comment, “I won a silver medal and became a world-class athlete.” He was at a loss. He added, “It was my goal to get good results at the world championships, and I was really happy to achieve it.”
Cha Jun-hwan’s eyes are already on the 2026 Olympics. But he has no intention of rushing. He said, “I think it would be great if the technical part was further developed. To that extent, he said with strength that if he develops components such as skating skills as well, he will be able to get closer to the desired goal, a medal.”
Since a few years ago, the men’s figure skating singles have literally been fighting a ‘four round jump war’. The trend is to secure as many points as possible with 4-rotation jumps, which have a high base point. Recently, American ‘divine’ Ilya Malinin has garnered attention for being the first to successfully perform a quadruple axel that rotates four and a half times in the air. 메이저놀이터
While admiring Cha Jun-hwan, “It seems to be really great to use the quadruple axel technique,” he explained that his program direction was a little different. “I pursued a way to obtain many bonus points by increasing the quality of quadruple jumps more than the number of quadruple jumps,” he said, who runs 4 round salchow and toe loop jumps. Because of that, I continue to practice 4-rotation flip jumps.” However, he added, “Because avoiding injury is the most important thing, we plan to increase it step by step so as not to be in a hurry.”
He thanked the fans for always cheering him on, both in happy moments and in difficult moments, and promised, “I will continue to work hard to deliver performances that heal those who watch my games.”