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Figure Skating

Ikura Kushida Leads at the Japan Junior Championships After the Short Program

At the Japan Junior Championships, the top four women's skaters are separated by less than three points. Two-time reigning champ Mao Shimada is fourth.

Ikura Kushida is the surprise leader after the women's short program at the Japan Junior Championships at Kinoshita Kansei Ice Arena in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on Saturday night, November 18. The 16-year-old skated a solid performance and will take a narrow lead into Sunday's free skate.

Kushida is on top with 65.30 points, ahead of training partner Ayumi Shibayama, who is in second place at 63.68, and Yo Takagi, who is third on 63.62.

Skating to "Red Violin," Kushida opened with a nice triple flip/triple toe loop combination jump, followed by a double axel. She was judged a quarter rotation short on her triple lutz but earned level fours on all of her spins and step sequence.

Japan Junior Championship
Mao Shimada in action during the women's short program. (KYODO)

Shimada Struggles in Short Program

World junior champion Mao Shimada, who is seeking her third straight victory in the event, botched her combination jump and is in fourth with 63.34. She is skating to "Americano" and "Composition." Shimada landed her opening double axel, but was unable to complete her combo after stepping out on the landing of her triple flip.

The 15-year-old Shimada, who is the top qualifier for December's Junior Grand Prix Final in Beijing, recorded level fours on her spins but only got a level three on her step sequence.

"I was very nervous, I was the most nervous this time," Shimada stated. "The failure in the flip was because it was not easy even in practice, so I was very depressed. This event is where the world junior and Youth Olympic (representatives) will be decided. I was nervous because I wanted to be selected as a representative."

World junior bronze medalist Ami Nakai made multiple errors in her short program to "Baby, God Bless You" and is far off the pace in 14th with 55.06. Nakai, who has also clinched a spot in the JGP Final, fell on a triple flip which caused her to not complete her combination jump. She also received only a level two on two of her spins.

Japan Junior Championships
Shunsuke Nakamura skates to "El Conquistador" in his short program. (KYODO)

Nakamura in First After Men's Short Program

Earlier Saturday, Shunsuke Nakamura took the lead in the men's competition after the short program. The 18-year-old Nakamura topped the leaderboard with 76.81, ahead of Tsudoi Suto, who is second at 70.59. Haru Kakiuchi is third on 68.64.

Rio Nakata, the top scorer on the JGP circuit this season, is in fifth place with 64.28.

Japan Junior Championships
Tsudoi Suto (KYODO)

Nakamura gave an inspired performance to "El Conquistador," landing a nice triple axel at the outset, then a triple flip/triple toe loop combo, and went on to hit a triple lutz. He notched level fours on two of his spins and step sequence.

"My free skate is my weakness," Nakamura remarked. "I just have to be confident now and do the rest of it."

This is Nakamura's sixth appearance at the Japan Junior Championships and he has never medaled in the competition. His closest placement to a medal was when he finished fourth in 2022.

The men's free skate will start at 12:30 PM on Sunday, with the women's free skate to follow at 4:10 PM.

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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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