YOKOHAMA – South Korea’s Cha Jung-hwan used a skillful free skate to overtake leader Vincent Zhou of the United States and win the men’s title at the Yokohama Junior Grand Prix on Saturday night.
Skating before another packed house at Shin-Yokohama Skate Center, the 14-year-old Cha performed to “Il Postino” and landed a quad salchow and seven clean triple jumps on the way to victory in his JGP debut.
Cha, who trains under Brian Orser in Toronto, posted a total score of 239.47 in the triumph. Cha was seventh at last season’s world junior championships.
“I didn’t feel anything different tonight,” stated Cha. “I just tried to skate the program the best I could.”
Cha made history this evening on two accounts. He became the first South Korean man ever to win a JGP, and also posted the highest score ever by a junior man.
“I’m happy to win, but didn’t have any expectation,” commented Cha. “I was surprised by the score.”
Zhou led after Friday’s short program, with Cha just over a point behind in second. But Zhou’s performance lacked the fluidity of Cha’s and that made the difference on this night. Zhou’s total tally was 226.36.
Zhou was diplomatic in defeat.
“I very happy with what I did tonight. I tried to stay focused and concentrate on what I needed to do” Zhou said. “Cha Jung-hwan deserved to win.”
Russia’s Alexey Erokhov (216.91) took third place.
Kazuki Tomono (212.04) skated a solid program to “An American in Paris” and came in fourth, moving up from sixth after the short program.
“I gave it my best. Like all junior skaters I want to improve in all elements — jumps, spins, transititions,” said Tomono.
Yuto Kishina (174.66) ended up ninth.
Rachel and Michael Parsons of the United States hold a big lead in ice dance after Saturday’s short dance at 66.76. Russia’s Anastasia Shpilevaya and Grigory Smirnov (60.88) are in second place.
Rikako Fukase and Aru Tateno stand sixth with 46.68.
The competition will conclude with the women’s free skate and free dance on Sunday.
Kaori Sakamoto and Mako Yamashita are 1-2 in the women’s field after the short program, with world junior champion Marin Honda in fifth place.
A victory by Sakamoto would lock up a spot for her in the JGP Final in Marseille, France, in December.
Honda needs to finish no lower than fourth to give herself a realistic shot at going to the JGP Final for the second straight season. She finished third at last year’s JGP Final.
Ice shavings: Takahiko Kozuka, the 2011 world silver medalist, was in attendance on Saturday. Kozuka, who retired in March, now works for Toyota.