The third time was a charm for South Korean skating star Jun-Hwan Cha. After finishing sixth in 2019 and fifth in 2020, the 20-year-old from Seoul made history with his victory at the 2022 Four Continents Championships as the first man from his nation to ever capture a Championships title. His success in Tallinn, Estonia, put him into a very elite group of two in his country, joining Yuna Kim who captured the title in 2009.

Coached by Brian Orser at the Toronto Cricket Club since 2015, Cha returned to his homeland when the pandemic struck in early 2020. In the ensuing two years Orser has coached him remotely, a situation that would normally not be the recipe for success. But Cha and Orser have made it work, giving his victory in Estonia greater significance.

This season, Cha turned to Canadian choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne to craft two new programs. The music for the short — “Fate of the Clockmaker” by Eternal Eclipse and Flynn Hase Spence and “Cloak and Dagger” by Bianca Ban — was suggested to him by his fans.

The free skate is set to two pieces from the late Romanic era opera “Turandot” by Giacomo Puccini: “Popoli de Pekino” and “Nessum Dorma,” and the “Violin Fantasy on Puccini’s Turandot” by Vanessa-Mae.

Cha opened his season with a sixth-place finish at the Asian Open Figure Skating Trophy, the test event for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. A month later he placed fifth at the Gran Premio D’Italia, and the following week claimed the third step of the podium at NHK Trophy in Japan.

Though most skaters who are headed to the Olympic Winter Games — which open in a little more than a week — opted to skip Four Continents this year, Cha said it was his decision to compete in Tallinn.

The short program became a duel between Cha and Japan’s Kozuki Tomono, his only rival. Cha claimed the lead by a slim 1.86-point margin (due to strong component marks) over Tomono who had the higher technical score in the segment.

“This competition was what I planned at the beginning of the season. There isn’t a lot of time left before the Olympics but Four Continents is the way to go to the Olympics. This is part of the training,” Cha explained. “I want to feel more about the competition and give energy so I’m very happy I could compete here. This is my third time at Four Continents. In all the competitions I really try my best, and today I really did it so that’s why I’m really happy. And I’m also happy about the personal best (score) today … so maybe I have some good things with Four Continents.

“Because of COVID I was training in Korea for almost two years. I was really working and practicing hard. I met Brian at the World Championships and the Grand Prixs. We had a lot of time when we trained together; we know each other and we believe in each other, so nothing was different or hard, we just believed and trusted and did it.”

The free skate got off to a shaky start with a fall on an under-rotated quad toe loop, but Cha immediately moved on to land a quad Salchow, followed by two combinations — triple Lutz-triple loop and a triple Axel-double toe (the Axel was deemed under-rotated) — a second triple Axel and three more triple jumping passes.

Cha won the free skate with 174.26 points and a combined total of 273.22 gave him his first senior international title. “I was a little nervous, but I tried to enjoy the competition. There were little mistakes, but I am still pleased,” the Seoul native said. “When I was coming here, I did not think about medals and placements. I think this is the first time Four Continents is in Europe so it’s special; this experience is more fresh, feels better.

“I was a little disappointed about the first two jumps, but until my program finished I really fought through, gave my everything and did what I trained. Today’s performance will be a great step for my next steps — the Olympics and the rest of the season — so I’m really happy about everything today.”