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[ICE TIME] After Shoma Uno's Retirement, a New Generation of Skating Stars Moves into the Spotlight

Japanese skating standouts Yuma Kagiyama, Kao Miura and Shun Sato step into the forefront with ambitious goals for the 2026 Olympics and other big events.

There will be a passing of the torch in Japanese men's skating in the 2024-25 season following the retirement of Shoma Uno

With the two-time world champion bowing out less than two years before the 2026 Olympics, the focus will now fall on the three skaters who will almost certainly make up the Hinomaru's team in Italy.

Barring injury, Beijing Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama, two-time Grand Prix Final competitor Kao Miura, and two-time Four Continents medalist Shun Sato will be the trio that represents Japan.

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Yuma Kagiyama (center), Shun Sato (left) and Kao Miura were the top three finishers in the men's competition at the Kanto Summer Trophy in 2019 in Saitama. (JACK GALLAGHER)

It has been clear for years that once two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu and Uno stepped away, the young trio of skaters would be stepping up on the big stage.

Ice Time vividly recalls covering the Kanto Summer Trophy in the summer of 2019 in Saitama where Kagiyama, Sato and Miura finished 1-2-3. It was apparent there that the skill level of these three was far advanced for skaters in the same age group in Japan.

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Yuma Kagiyama (KYODO)

Skating to New Heights: 2021 Marked a Breakthrough Year for Kagiyama

Kagiyama matured the earliest, earning a silver medal at the 2021 world championships at 17, then capturing silver in both singles and the team competition at the 2022 Beijing Olympics at 18.

Having been well trained by his father Masakazu, a two-time Olympian for Japan, Yuma's skating skills and technique are both sublime. The addition of Carolina Kostner to his team has enhanced Yuma's skating even more.

Overcoming an injury that cost him almost an entire season two years ago, the now 21-year-old Kagiyama is entering his prime.

Japan Championships
Kao Miura (ⒸSANKEI)

Teenager Miura Showed Skating Potential Early

Miura, who turns 19 on June 8, possesses the most raw talent of the three. He became the youngest Japanese skater to land a quadruple toe loop in international competition when he achieved the feat at the Junior Grand Prix in Latvia in 2019 at 14.

Miura's two biggest accomplishments both came during the 2022-23 season when he topped the podium at the Four Continents Championships and the World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

As the years have gone on, Miura has expanded his quad arsenal and refined his presentation skills. Having told Ice Time in an exclusive interview at the 2023 world juniors that his goal was to win the gold at the 2026 Games, it will be interesting to see if Miura tries to up his game by moving to a foreign coach for the first time this coming season or next.

Japan Championships
Shun Sato (KYODO)

It's just a shoe!

Sato Demonstrated Skating Talent with Runner-Up Finish at Four Continents

The 20-year-old Sato, thought by some to have the most natural ability of the three skaters, is still seeking his first breakthrough victory as a senior. He was second behind Kagiyama at the Four Continents in February 2024.

Sato's first senior international campaign was hampered by a serious dislocation of his left shoulder at the 2021 Skate America. That injury ultimately resulted in his withdrawal from the 2022 world juniors. He has come on in the past few seasons but has yet to make Japan's team for worlds.

Although the Sendai native also has never had a foreign coach, like Kagiyama and Miura, he does have experience working with foreign choreographers. The view here is that he could really benefit from a new approach. 

Sato has earned five medals on the senior GP circuit but has never won.

World Junior Championships
Rena Uezono in action in the women's free skate at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships at Taipei Arena in March 2024. (©ISU)

Uezono Working on Triple Axel

Fresh off her successful debut season as a junior, Rena Uezono is setting her aspirations high for her second go-round. The Junior Grand Prix Final bronze medalist, who turned 14 on June 7, said in a recent interview she may include a triple axel in her program this season.

"For the new season, I'm thinking of including the triple axel," Uezono told Web Sportiva in an interview translated into English and posted on fs-gossips.com. "It's not in its final form yet, so it would be nice if I could include it.

"I've landed it with under-rotation before, but I haven't been able to do it recently," continued Uezono, who idolized Mao Asada growing up. "In practice, I still haven't gotten the hang of the takeoff, so I would like to be able to do that."

Uezono, who finished fourth at the Japan Championships in December 2023, credited her success last season to her coach Mihoko Higuchi, saying, "Coach Mihoko taught me to 'give my all in practice.' "

No Worlds Bid for Japan in 2027 or 2028

According to the latest information available from the ISU, the Japan Skating Federation has not submitted a bid to host the world championships in either 2027 or 2028. The event was held in Saitama in 2023, but it appears now that it will be at least six more years at the earliest before it returns to Japan.

Applicants for the 2027 worlds include Beijing; Tampere, Finland; Dortmund, Germany; Budapest, and Kaunas, Lithuania. Those in the running for the 2028 worlds are Vienna, Dortmund, Kaunas and Malmo, Sweden.

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Author: Jack Gallagher

The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world's foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, and find him on X (formerly Twitter) @sportsjapan.

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