Lee, a three-time South Korean champion, won the men's singles title at the Figure Skating Korea Challenge last month in Seoul and earned the right to compete at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany starting on Sept. 27. It's the last Olympic qualifying competition where six tickets to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games will be up for grabs.
|Lee June-hyoung (Yonhap)|
If Lee finishes in the top six, then South Korea will be able to send a male skater to PyeongChang 2018 next February. If not, the host nation will not be represented in one of the more glamorous Winter Olympics events.
No South Korean man has qualified for the Winter Olympics through the Nebelhorn Trophy before.
"I feel a sense of responsibility, and I'll try to bring home an Olympic ticket," Lee said after an open practice at the National Training Center in Seoul. "Of course, it'll be great if I get to compete in the Olympics, too."
Even if Lee does well enough at the Nebelhorn Trophy, he will still have two more rounds of South Korean Olympic trials left. He got a head start by winning the Figure Skating Korea Challenge, which doubled as the first round. The Korea Skating Union will hold another qualifying competition in December, and then the national championships in January next year will be the third and final event for South Korean Olympic hopefuls.
In winning that first event, Lee skated a conservative free skate program without a quadruple jump, while his two rivals, Kim Jin-seo and Cha Jun-hwan, self-destructed with mistakes on their quadruple jumps.
Lee is the rare male skater who doesn't attempt quadruple jumps, and he said he'll maintain his conservative and "safe"
"At the Nebelhorn Trophy, I won't try to do too much, and will just stick to what I can do well," he said. "I will not attempt quadruple jumps because I can't execute them consistently."
Lee said he'd been battling some nagging back pains until April but he's much better now. And improved health has also led to more confidence on the ice.
"When I was in pain, I was only worried about executing jumps," he said. "But now, I am also able to focus on my choreography and overall presentation."
Lee said his goal at the Nebelhorn Trophy is to pull off "clean" programs and improve his program component score, which measures skaters' artistry and choreography.
"After the Nebelhorn Trophy, I'll try to improve my quadruple jumps for the remaining Olympic trials," Lee said. (Yonhap)