Mao Shimada and Yo Takagi Finish 1-2 at the Osaka JGP
During her free skate, Mao Shimada was nearly flawless as she landed eight clean triple jumps and executed the choreography of her program with precision.
IZUMISANO, Osaka Prefecture ― World junior champion Mao Shimada scored a dominating victory at the Osaka Junior Grand Prix at Kanku Ice Arena on Saturday night, September 16, delighting the home crowd with a powerful free skate.
The 14-year-old star from nearby Kyoto Prefecture took a big lead into the free skate and expanded on it to win by more than 25 points. Shimada's total score was 213.86 points, as she led a 1-2 finish for Japan with Yo Takagi, who came in second at 188.15 with a sublime performance of her own.
Taiwan's Yu-Feng Tsai (178.82) narrowly prevented a Japan sweep, as she edged out Ikura Kushida (176.09) for third place with an inspired effort.
Shimada's free skate was nearly flawless as she landed eight clean triple jumps and earned level fours on all of her spins as she executed the choreography of her program with precision. The lone blemish came when she fell on her second jump (a quadruple toe loop), which she had been having trouble landing in training this week.
Shimada's victory was practically preordained, as she held a 10 point-lead over Takagi following Friday's short program. It wasn't a question of whether or not Shimada would win, but rather how large the margin would be.
Mao Shimada Reflects on Her Performance
"Since it was a tournament in Japan, I went into it with the feeling that I absolutely wanted to win," Shimada stated. "I had a lot of fun skating with a strong feeling that, 'I've practiced a lot, so I can do it.' "
Shimada said that her condition was not optimal for the free skate.
"I believe that the fact that I was able to do this free performance even though I wasn't feeling well was the result of my daily practice," Shimada commented.
Takagi Impresses the Audience
The 15-year-old Takagi enthralled the crowd with her skate to "The Mission" and "Whispers In A Dream," which saw her land seven triple and receive level fours on two of her spins and a level three on the other. The Tokyo native skated confidently and gave herself an outside chance at making the Junior GP Final in December in Beijing with the result. She was fourth at August's Bangkok JGP, which now gives her 22 points for the JGP campaign.
"I'm happy because I didn't think I would get a personal best," Takagi remarked. "I learned that I was able to persevere and not give up even when I failed."
Tsai Happy with Her Scores
Tsai earned her first JGP medal with her performance to "Schindler's List." The 14-year-old was judged a quarter rotation short on a couple of her triple jumps. But she posted level fours on two of her spins and earned a standing ovation from the audience for her impressive presentation skills.
"I'm very happy that I could do a clean program today," Tsai said.
Tsai continued by saying, "I didn't know if I would get a medal, [and] I was very happy that the audience clapped for me."
A Learning Experience for Kushida
Kushida, who was third after the short program, was the final skater of the event and had trouble from the outset. The 15-year-old competed to music from "The Little Prince" and was hit with an edge call on her opening triple lutz and an under-rotation on the back end of her triple salchow/triple toe loop combination jump that followed. She then fell on a double axel/triple toe combo.
Kushida did notch level fours on all of her spins, but it just wasn't her night.
"I enjoyed the atmosphere unique to the Japan tournament," Kushida stated.
She added, "I was a little disappointed today, but I found a lot of things I couldn't do and issues, so I will do my best to correct them and perform without mistakes in the short program and free skate."
Neset, Markelov Triumph in Ice Dance
Leah Neset and Artem Markelov of the United States won the ice dance with a tally of 167.51. Israel's Elizabeth Tkachenko and Alexei Kiliakov took second with 166.16, while France's Celina Fradji and Jean-Hans Fourneaux came in third at 151.13.
Japan's Sara Kishimoto and Atsuhiko Tamura finished fourth on 144.78.
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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.