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Ex-nat'l figure skating champ closes in on Olympic spot for S. Korea

2017/09/29 07:28

SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- Former national men's figure skating champion Lee June-hyoung has closed in on getting South Korea a spot at next year's Winter Olympics on home ice.

Lee set a new personal best with 74.37 points in the short program to rank fourth among 26 skaters at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, on Thursday (local time). This is the last Olympic qualifying competition, and the top six skaters from countries who aren't already qualified will each earn a spot at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics for their countries.

Lee, a three-time South Korean champ, broke his previous career high by 4.32 points.

The free skate is Friday night.

Jorik Hendrickx of Belgium is the leader with 85.15 points, followed by Alexander Johnson of the United States and Alexander Majorov of Sweden. Of the current top six, Johnson is the only skater from a country already qualified for PyeongChang. This means if the short program standings hold up after free skate, the top seven will each take home an Olympic ticket.

In this file photo taken July 30, 2017, South Korean figure skater Lee June-hyoung performs during the Figure Skating Korea Challenge at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul. (Yonhap) In this file photo taken July 30, 2017, South Korean figure skater Lee June-hyoung performs during the Figure Skating Korea Challenge at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Lee has a 6.87-point lead over the current No. 8, Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines.

The last South Korean man to skate in the men's singles at a Winter Games is Lee Kyu-hyun in 2002. No South Korean man has qualified for the Winter Olympics through the Nebelhorn Trophy.

Even if Lee clinches an Olympic spot at the Nebelhorn Trophy, it doesn't mean he will get to represent the host country next February. There are still two more rounds of South Korean Olympic trials left.

In July, Lee got a head start by winning the Figure Skating Korea Challenge, which doubled as the first round. The Korea Skating Union (KSU) will hold another qualifying competition in December, and the national championships in January next year will be the third and final event for South Korean Olympic hopefuls.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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