Beijing Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama made a successful return to the Grand Prix circuit after a two-year absence by claiming the bronze medal at the Grand Prix de France in Angers on Saturday, November 4. An ankle injury kept the 20-year-old off the ice during the 2022-23 season for all but one competition.
Following an outstanding performance in the short program, Kagiyama weathered a few jump issues in his free skate but held on to make the podium behind winner Adam Siao Him Fa of France and Ilia Malinin of the United States.
Siao Him Fa's winning total score was 306.78 points, while Malinin earned 304.68. Coming in third, Kagiyama's tally was 273.14.
Kagiyama skated to "Rain, in Your Black Eyes" in his free skate and landed two quadruple jumps, four clean triples, and notched level fours on his spins and step sequence. He did single a planned triple axel and stumbled on the landing of a triple lutz. But all things considered, it was a fine performance.
Yuma Kagiyama Aims for Improvement
"I feel I made some mistakes in my performance and I'm very frustrated," Kagiyama stated. "Looking at the scores and also my performance, I think I still have a lot to work on to compete with the top two. But those two skaters inspired me a lot to move on and to work for the future."
Sumiyoshi Lands Quad Toe Loop in France
Rion Sumiyoshi made it two bronzes for Japan in France and achieved some history with her third-place result in the women's event on Saturday. The 20-year-old became the first Japanese female in 21 years to land a quad (a toe loop) in international competition, since Miki Ando hit a quad salchow at the Junior Grand Prix Final back in 2002.
Isabeau Levito of the US was the winner at 203.22, marking her first senior GP victory. Belgium's Nina Pinzarrone came in second with 198.80, with Sumiyoshi finishing third on 197.76.
Ice Time felt that Sumiyoshi was underscored by the judges in her free skate to "Enchantress" and should have finished first in Angers. In addition to the quad, she landed five clean triples and had level fours on two of her spins.
Sumiyoshi, who took the bronze in the France GP for the second straight year, won the free skate with 136.04 but should have scored in the 140s in my opinion. Her free skate was by far the best and should have been judged as so.
Sumiyoshi was fifth after the short program where she fell on a double axel.
"Yesterday I made a mistake due to my mental status," Sumiyoshi commented after her free skate. "But today I fixed the problems I had yesterday and performed as I wanted."
Sumiyoshi Delighted to Land Quad Toe Loop
Sumiyoshi was pleased that she was able to hit the four-rotation jump.
"Today I'm really happy I landed it so cleanly," Sumiyoshi remarked. "I'm trying to make it more consistent so that it will be my weapon to win competitions."
"Men appear to enter the jump with ease without using a curve," Sumiyoshi commented to Nikkan Sports. "I changed my jumps to be more efficient and use less power."
Higuchi Makes Return to GP Circuit
Higuchi was grateful for the nice reception that greeted her return.
"I think I was able to skate calmer even more compared to yesterday, so it was very fun," Higuchi said. "Every time I come to France a lot of people cheer for me. Although it's been two years before this competition, I received support from many people, and was able to skate while having a lot of fun."
Chiba explained that a case of the jitters turned into dizziness before her free skate.
"I was able to somewhat jump well in practices, but the condition of my body, even if it didn't hurt anywhere, I was not sure about being able to head towards the competition with 100 percent confidence," Chiba stated. "Before I knew it, I started to get anxious.
"During Kimmy's performance, I was feeling unsteady," Chiba noted, referring to Swiss skater Kimmy Repond. "I wondered if I would be OK. But after the second half of my performance, I think I was able to jump well."
World Champion Heads Field at Cup of China
The GP will travel to Chongqing, China, from November 10-12, where two-time world champion Shoma Uno will make his GP season debut. It promises to be a compelling competition with Uno competing against Siao Him Fa after his win on home ice. Kazuki Tomono and Sota Yamamoto will join Uno in the men's battle.
Hana Yoshida and Rinka Watanabe will skate for the Hinomaru in the women's event, where two-time world medalist Loena Hendrickx promises to be a formidable foe. Mai Mihara, the reigning Grand Prix Final champion, has pulled out of the event due to a right ankle injury.
Sato Shines at Eastern Japan Sectionals
Shun Sato was victorious on Saturday in the men's competition at the Eastern Japan Sectionals in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, with two outstanding performances. Sato won by a whopping 64 points over second-place finisher Yoshioka, last season's world junior bronze medalist.
Sato's winning tally was 284.87, while Yoshioka registered 220.27. Kosho Oshima took third with 191.61.
Yuna Aoki, who was seventh at the Japan Championships last year, was an easy winner in the women's event with 179.40. Maria Egawa came in second with 163.72, while Maya Ishida was third at 151.62.
Russian Pairs Legend Protopopov Dies at 91
Russian pairs giant Oleg Protopopov passed away on October 31 at the age of 91, the Figure Skating Federation of Russia reported on November 4. Protopopov and his partner and wife Ludmila Belousova won Olympic gold medals for the Soviet Union at the 1964 Innsbruck Games and the 1968 Grenoble Games.
The pair also won the world championships four times (1965-68) before defecting to Switzerland in 1979 during a skating tour. They lived in Switzerland where they became Swiss citizens and continued skating in shows until they were in their 70s.
Ludmila Belousova died in 2017 at the age of 81.
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.