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[ICE TIME] Mao Shimada, Kao Miura Favored for Golden Double at World Junior Championships

Led by the talented young skating stars, Japan has a chance to claim the men's and women's titles at the World Junior Championships for the third time.

CALGARY, Canada ― Teen stars Mao Shimada and Kao Miura will look to continue their fine seasons when the World Junior Championships get underway with official practices here on Monday, February 27 at WinSport Arena.

The 14-year-old Shimada, the Grand Prix Final champion, and the 17-year-old Miura, the Four Continents titlist, will be trying to give Japan both the women's and men's crown at the same event for the first time since 2010 and just the third time in history.

Thirteen years ago, Yuzuru Hanyu and Kanako Murakami both won the gold at the event officially known as the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in The Hague. The golden double was first achieved by the Hinomaru in 2005, when Mao Asada and Nobunari Oda topped the podium in Kitchener, Ontario (Canada).

In Canada's Alberta province, Shimada will attempt to become the eighth Japanese woman to claim the world junior title. Previous winners were Yuka Sato (1990), Kumiko Koiwai (1993), Yukina Ota (2003), Miki Ando (2004), Mao Asada (2005), Murakami (2010) and Marin Honda (2016).

Shimada Aims for More Skating Glory

Shimada's season has been nothing short of sensational. She has won every competition she has entered with the exception of the Japan Championships, where she finished third behind world champion Kaori Sakamoto and GP Final winner Mai Mihara.

With a quadruple toe loop and a triple axel in her jump arsenal, Shimada will be favored to continue her winning ways here. Shimada will be joined by Ami Nakai, the bronze medalist at the Japan Junior Championships this season, as they try to restore Japan's three places for next year's world juniors in Taiwan. Together, Shimada and Nakai need to finish a combined 13th or better to clinch the three spots.

Nakai has also enjoyed a fine campaign, winning the Junior Grand Prix event in Poland and taking third at the JGP in Latvia. She narrowly missed a medal at the JGP Final in Italy, where came in fourth.

The top challengers for Shimada and Nakai will come from South Korea's trio of Jia Shin, Minsol Kwon and Yujae Kim. Shin placed second at the 2022 world juniors and finished runner-up to Shimada at the JGP Final.

The women's short program is set for Wednesday, March 1.

Miura Hopes to Replicate Recent Success

Miura is fresh off his fantastic performance at the Four Continents in Colorado earlier in February, where he won his first senior ISU Championships medal. He has always been a powerful jumper, but has improved his program component scores significantly this season.

His free skate at the Four Continents was the best of his career. Needing to top his own personal best by five points to win, he scored 11 points above his previous career high to take the title by landing three quads and six triples.

Miura is seeking to become the sixth Japanese man to capture the world junior crown. He will try to join the likes of Daisuke Takahashi (2002), Oda (2005), Takahiko Kozuka (2006), Hanyu (2010) and Shoma Uno (2015).

Teaming up with Miura here will be 19-year-old Japan junior champion Nozomu Yoshioka, who was the bronze medalist at the JGP Final this season. Miura and Yoshioka will also be seeking to secure three places for Japan at next year's world juniors.

The prime competition for Miura and Yoshioka should come from Italy's Nikolaj Memola, the JGP Final titlist, and Americans Lucas Broussard, who finished second at the JGP Final, and Robert Yampolsky, who was fifth.

On Thursday afternoon, March 2, the men's short program will take place.

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Other Japan Entrants for the World Junior Championships

Haruna Murakami and Sumitada Moriguchi will be Japan's lone representatives in pairs. The duo came in fourth at the JGP Final this season. Murakami, 14, and Moriguchi, 21, claimed the bronze medal at the JGP in Poland.

Representing Australia, Anastasia Golubeva and Hektor Giotopoulous Moore, the JGP Final winners, will be strong favorites to win the pairs.

The pairs short program will commence on Wednesday morning.

Nao Kida and Masaya Morita will skate for the Hinomaru in ice dance. They collected a bronze medal at the JGP in the Czech Republic this season.

Nadiia Bashynska and Peter Beaumont, the JGP Final champions, will look to bring host Canada gold in ice dance.

The rhythm dance is slated for Friday afternoon, March 3.

Looking Back at the Nagano Olympics 25 Years Later

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the end of the skating competition at the Nagano Games in 1998. To see just how far Japan has ascended in the sport, one only needs to take a look at the final results at White Ring, which Ice Time covered, back in the day.

One could never have imagined then the incredible success the Hinomaru would achieve in the next quarter of a century with the likes of Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno, Shizuka Arakawa, Mao Asada and a host of others. The transformation has been nothing short of phenomenal.

This Sunday night (February 26) superstar Hanyu will skate before a sellout crowd at Tokyo Dome in his one-man show. It would have been unimaginable that a solo Japanese skater could fill up the cavernous stadium back in 1998, but such is the charisma and magic of the two-time Olympic champion.

American Tara Lipinski skates in the women's short program at the Nagano Olympics on February 18, 1998. (Doug Mills/AP)

The women's medalists in Nagano were Tara Lipinski (gold) and Michelle Kwan (silver) of the US, and China's Lu Chen (bronze). Japan's lone entrant was Arakawa, who placed 13th, but would win the gold eight years later at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

In men's singles, the medalists were Russia's Ilia Kulik (gold), Canada's Elvis Stojko (silver) and France's Philippe Candeloro (bronze). Japan had two entries in the men's event, Takeshi Honda (who was 15th) and Yamato Tamura (who finished 17th).

Additional Medalists at the Nagano Games

The pairs medalists were Russia's Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev (gold) and Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze (silver), and Germany's Mandy Wotzel and Ingo Steuer (bronze). Japan's lone team of Marie Arai and Shin Amano were last in 20th place.

In the ice dance competition, the medalists were Russia's Pasha Grishuk and Evgeni Platov (gold) and Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov (silver), and France's Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat (bronze). Japan's one duo of Aya Kawai and Hiroshi Tanaka finished 23rd out of the 24 teams entered.

Peggy Fleming Trophy Canceled

The Peggy Fleming Trophy, named for the American 1968 Olympic gold medalist, has reached the finish line after five years. Broadmoor Skating Club of Colorado Springs, the host of the event, made the announcement recently on its website.

"The Broadmoor SC is announcing the cancellation of the Peggy Fleming Trophy," the club wrote. "After five wonderful years, the event, which stressed the incorporation of presentation and creativity with high level triple and quadruple jumps, is being retired."

No specific reason was given for the cancellation, which made many skating fans wonder what the backstory was.


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 Twitter @sportsjapan.

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