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(Yonhap Interview) Figure skating coach Brian Orser sees bright Olympic future for S. Korean teen

All News 17:57 July 26, 2016

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- Two-time Olympic figure skating silver medalist Brian Orser has worked magic in his coaching career, having produced multiple Olympic gold medalists and world champions over the past decade.

And now, the Canadian is hoping he has a future champion on his hands in South Korean teenager Cha Jun-hwan.

"We're focused on continuing his progress and making the Olympic team," Orser said during a joint interview with Yonhap News Agency and several other news media Tuesday, referring to the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul.

"With the progress he's making now, he'll be really one of the guys to compete with," the coach added.

Orser is in town for the International Skating Union (ISU) Junior Grand Prix Qualifying Event that began Tuesday. He has been coaching Cha, 14, in Toronto since March last year, and helped him finish seventh at his first World Junior Championships last year.

"The timing of peaking will be good for him. His age is going to be definitely an advantage (at the Olympics)," Orser said. "The way he's progressing is really phenomenal. This year, at the junior worlds, he will turn a lot of heads, as he did last year. I think he'll be poised to do really well at the Olympics."

Cha, a two-time South Korean junior champion who has finished third twice at the senior national event, has been working on improving his triple axel and quadruple salchow.

Cha shot to the top of the leader board Tuesday with 74.07 points in a clean short program, which included a flawless triple axel -- the most demanding triple jump with a forward takeoff.

"Triple axel is pretty common for him," Orser said of his pupil. "Last year at this time, he was just learning triple axel. Now, it's pretty consistent. Quadruple salchow is also pretty consistent now. He's also started landing quadruple toe loops. He gets to train with some pretty amazing quadruple jumpers, and he learns pretty quickly."

Cha has had a growth spurt over the last couple of years. He went from 159cm in 2014 to 167cm last year, and then 171cm today.

Orser said Cha "has managed his growth really well" and has deftly handled problems that often accompany such a spurt.

"He's developing into a young man now. He's getting stronger," the coach said. "There have been a few times during his growth spurt where we've had some issues. But he's been very focused. Sometimes, we take a step backward and then take two steps forward. That's kind of the plan for the next five or six years for him."

Best known in South Korea for coaching Kim Yu-na to the 2010 Olympic gold medal in the ladies' singles, Orser now counts Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 Olympic men's singles champion, and Javier Fernandez, the two-time reigning world champion, as his pupils.

Both are in their primes and if Cha is to make some noise in PyeongChang, he will likely have to contend with the two stars.

"For these two guys (Hanyu and Fernandez), their sights are on the Olympics," Orser said, adding they're currently training in Toronto. "They're really trying to plan and peak for the Olympics here."


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