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Figure Skating

Mao Shimada Makes History by Repeating as World Junior Champion

Gold medalist Mao Shimada landed eight triples in all and appeared to get stronger as the program went on, while Rena Uezono rallied for a third-place finish.

A gutsy performance under pressure carried Mao Shimada to her second straight title at the World Junior Championships at Taipei Arena on Friday night, March 1 and into the history books as just the third woman ever to repeat as champion in the event.

Shimada's superior technical content helped her overtake South Korea's Jia Shin, the leader after the short program, in the free skate to clinch the victory. In winning the gold, Shimada joined Russia's Elena Radionova (2013, 2014) and Alexandra Trusova (2018, 2019) as the only women to repeat as world junior champion.

Mao Shimada
Women's champion Mao Shimada (center), silver medalist Jia Shin (left) and third-place finisher Rena Uezono display their medals. (KYODO)

The 15-year-old Shimada's winning total score was 218.36 points, while Shin took the silver for the third consecutive year with 212.43. Rena Uezono rallied with a stunning free skate to vault from eighth place after the short program and claim the bronze, giving Japan two medals for the second year in a row.

Finland's Iida Karhunen came in fourth on 186.32, while Ikura Kushida, who was third after the short program, ended up fifth with 180.97.

Mao Shimada
Mao Shimada delivers her rendition of "Benedictus" in the women's free skate. (KYODO)

Dazzling Performance by Mao Shimada

Skating next to last to "Benedictus," Shimada stepped out on the landing of her opening triple axel, but recovered to immediately land a beautiful quadruple toe loop that proved pivotal to her triumph. She landed eight triples in all and appeared to get stronger as the program went on, earning level fours on two of her spins and a level three on the other.

"I was very nervous and in the actual performance I wasn't able to land the axel," Shimada stated. "But I'm very happy that I was able to land the quad toe loop in this competition, which I've been struggling with since last year."

Shimada acknowledged that landing the quad toe loop was crucial to her victory.

"I had made a mistake on the axel, and I thought if I made another mistake there would be nothing else to do," Shimada commented. "So I thought I had to give it my all. I was very happy that I could land it. But after that I still simultaneously felt that I couldn't make any more mistakes."

Shin 'Satisfied' with Her Performance

Shin, also 15, competed to "Not About Angels" and "Portion of Eternity" and put forth another elegant effort. She hit seven clean triples and recorded level fours on two of her spins, but appeared to tire and managed just a level three on her program-ending final spin.

"I overall think it was a pretty good performance and I am satisfied with myself," Shin remarked. "At the end I messed up my last spin and then I also felt a little bit sad to let 'Not About Angels' go as this was my last time performing it."

Added Shin, "I don't compare results too much or skate for results."

World Junior Championships
Rena Uezono competes in the women's free skate in Taipei. (KYODO)

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Uezono Displays Impressive Poise

The 13-year-old Uezono was not even in the final group of six skaters, but had a sublime skate to "Pray" and "Mechanisms." The Nagoya native exhibited great poise on the way to posting a clean scoresheet that featured seven triples and level fours on all of her spins.

"I think I was able to convey the charm, so I'm very happy," Uezono said. "There were parts that I'm frustrated about because I had some mistakes. I'm thankful to my coaches, and also, I think competing here will help me do my best in the future as well."

She added, "I'm just thankful to everyone."

World Junior Championships
Ikura Kushida in action in the women's free skate. (KYODO)

Kushida Slips Out of Medal Contention

Kushida, a 16-year-old from Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, dropped out of medal contention after falling twice in her skate to "Preparation" and "Escape." She was also judged a quarter rotation short on three jumps on a night when she was clearly not at her best, but did receive level fours on all of her spins.

"I was very nervous, and I wasn't able to move as I usually do," Kushida admitted. "After going into the second half, I was still nervous but my movements were better compared to the first half."

Metelkina, Berulava Victorious by Big Margin in Pairs

In action late on Thursday night, Georgia's Anastasiia Metelkina and Luka Berulava won the gold in pairs with 179.32. Olivia Flores and Luke Wang of the United States claimed the silver at 166.89, while their compatriots Naomi Williams and Lachlan Lewer took the bronze on 146.00.

Japan's Sae Shimizu and Lucas Tsuyoshi Honda finished 14th with 115.77.

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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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