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Figure Skating

Mao Shimada Achieves Historic First with Second Straight Victory at the JGP Final

Landing both the triple axel and quadruple toe loop in her free skate, Mao Shimada came from behind and claimed the gold in Beijing.

World junior champion Mao Shimada made history by becoming the first woman ever to win the Junior Grand Prix Final two years in a row. She had a resounding performance in Beijing on Friday night, December 8. 

The 15-year-old star landed both her triple axel and quadruple toe loop in her free skate to come from behind and claim the gold.

It was yet another stunning performance by Shimada, who seems to do her best when she is under the most pressure. She has had trouble landing the quad toe loop all season, but when she needed it most, she came through.

Shimada's winning total score was 206.33 points, giving her a solid margin over South Korea's Jia Shin, who finished second with 200.75. Shin led Shimada by less than a point after the short program, but without a triple axel or a quad, was unable to hold off her rival.

Junior Grand Prix Final women's champion Mao Shimada (center), silver medalist Jia Shin (right) and third-place finisher Rena Uezono display their medals after the competition. (KYODO)

Rena Uezono, the 13-year-old from Nagoya, captured the bronze with 196.46 in another impressive outing. South Korea's Yuseong Kim was fourth at 190.48, while Ami Nakai came in fifth on 187.04.

Kim's compatriot Minsol Kwon ended up sixth with 183.06.

Mao Shimada
Mao Shimada glides across the ice during her rendition of "Benedictus." (KYODO)

Clutch Outing Gives Shimada Another Gold

Shimada skated to "Benedictus" and opened with a solid triple axel and followed that with a nice quad toe loop. She landed five clean triples in the triumph while earning level fours on all of her spins.

The Tokyo native's only major issues came when she under-rotated the front half of a triple lutz/triple toe loop combo and singled a triple loop in the second half of her program.

"I am very happy to win the Junior Grand Prix Final for the second time," Shimada stated. "Today I wanted to give it my all. That was the biggest thing. My performance was bad yesterday and at the official practice this morning as well."

Added Shimada, "I thought the morning practice was bad because it was so early. So I slept and thought of the morning practice and this competition as two different days. As for my quad jump, I don't think it was bad."

Shin Settles for Second Again

The 15-year-old Shin, who was second behind Shimada at the 2023 World Junior Figure Skating Championships and JGP Final in the 2022-23 season, fought gamely but just didn't have the content to match Shimada in the end. She landed five triples in her skate to "Not About Angels" and "Portion of Eternity." But two of her three spins were judged as level threes, which was not going to be good enough on this night.

"I was pretty nervous today and my legs were a bit shaky, so I am glad with the way I skated today," Shin commented. "Was able [to overcome] my nervousness and handled it better than yesterday. I think I skated better than yesterday and my performance was about 50-60 percent of my abilities today."

Added Shin, "I think this season I performed better than at last year's Final."

Rena Uezono (KYODO)

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Brilliant Uezono Poised for Greatness

Uezono skated to "Pray" and "Mechanisms" and gave a lovely performance under the glare of the spotlight at a big event. She hit six triples and recorded level fours on two of her spins as she displayed her great potential for the future.

"I was able to land the jumps and really had fun while skating, so I think it was good," Uezono remarked. "Tonight I was a little nervous but I think I was able to properly focus and skate until the end."

Added Uezono, "I wasn't really thinking about the scores, but I am very happy that I was able to get my personal best. I'm very happy to deliver a good performance in a big competition, and I hope to connect (this experience) to the next one."

Ami Nakai competes in the women's free skate. (KYODO)

Early Fall Hurt Nakai's Chances

Nakai, who was fourth after the short program, fell on her opening triple axel to "Glimmer of Faith" and "Only Hope." 

The 15-year-old from Niigata bounced back to land five triples and earn level fours on all of her spins, but doubled her triple salchow on the back end of a three-combo jump.

"I thought it would be the last competition of the season, so a part of me was nervous," Nakai said. "But I'm glad that I was able to challenge it with confidence before it began. Often in practices, I can't recover after an initial mistake. But this time I'm glad that I was able to make a comeback."

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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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