(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 6-12, 3rd photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, March 25 (Yonhap) -- Cha Jun-hwan captured a historic silver medal at the figure skating world championships Saturday, becoming the first South Korean man to reach the podium at the annual competition.
Cha finished with a new personal-best 296.03 points in the men's singles at the International Skating Union World Figure Skating Championships at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Shoma Uno of Japan won his second straight world title with 301.14 points.
Ilia Malinin of the United States finished third with 288.44 points.
Cha earned 196.39 points, also a new career high, with a clean free skate Saturday. He had ranked third in Thursday's short program with a personal-best 99.64 points.
Cha, 21, is the first male from South Korea to win a world championships medal. His previous best finish at this competition was 10th in 2021.
Skating to the soundtrack of the 007 film "No Time to Die," Cha landed every jump of his free program cleanly, including a quadruple salchow and quadruple toe loop at the start of the program. Cha earned a grade of execution score of 4.16 points for the salchow and another 3.53 for the toe loop.
Cha had often struggled with those difficult quadruple jumps, but flawless execution at the onset in Saturday's free skate set the tone for the rest of the evening.
He had a tidy triple lutz-triple loop combination. Though Cha appeared to have pulled off a triple flip cleanly, he was docked 0.08 point for not having clear edge on the landing.
In the latter half of the program, Cha earned extra points for clean execution of all jump elements, including a triple axel-double axel sequence and a solo triple axel.
Cha only attempted two quad jumps, whereas Uno attempted five and Malinin put six such jumps into his program.
Malinin, despite some wobbly landings, still led all skaters with 107.08 points in technical element score (TES). Cha, thanks to his mistake-free program, scored 105.65 points in TES, more than two points better than Uno, who lost 3.43 points for under-rotating his quadruple salchow.
Uno, however, outscored Cha in the program component scores, which evaluates skaters' choreography and presentation, by 93.38 to 90.74.
On Friday in Saitama, Lee Hae-in grabbed silver in the women's singles to become the first South Korean since Kim Yu-na in 2013 to stand on the world championships podium.
Cha was the only South Korean skater in the men's singles this year. By finishing in the top two, Cha has secured three entries for South Korea at next year's world championships in Montreal.