October 19, 2016 11:10
Teenage figure skater Cha Jun-hwan is emerging as a rising star who can repeat the glory that Olympic gold medalist Kim Yu-na has achieved in the sport.
The teenager set a new world record of 239.47 points to win the men's singles title at the International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix in Yokohama last month and with another win at an event in Dresden, Germany, earlier this month, he has secured a berth at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France in December.
The Chosun Ilbo met with Cha, who worked as a child model when he was little, at the Taeneung Training Center in Seoul on Tuesday.
When asked about his increasing popularity, he said, "I think now I get a bigger applause [after performances] than a year ago. Also, I got a lot of gifts from my fans. The most impressive one was a doll of myself in the same stage outfit as me."
"I'm not good enough to be compared to [Kim Yu-na]. That makes me feel ashamed. There are still many things to learn," he added humbly.
Cha has grown exponentially as an athlete since he started training under Brian Orser, the former coach of Kim, in March last year. Since then, he has trained in Toronto, Canada, where world-class figure skaters like Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernández of Spain also train.
"Just being in the same space as such great skaters motivates me," he said. "I have little difficulty communicating with the coach and other skaters in English as I have steadily learned it since childhood."
Kim took up skating as a hobby when he was a second grader in elementary school. He was a slow learner, but he was positive and continued to practice and those efforts have finally paid off.
"I think I knew from a young age that effort is more important than talent," he said.
About his future goals, he stressed that he does not fixate on winning an Olympic medal or renewing a record. "If I set a big goal, I tend to feel burdened and make mistakes. Rather than rankings and scores, I try to focus on upcoming events and what I'm practicing at the moment."
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