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Figure Skating

Mao Shimada Wins Gold and Yo Takagi Gets Bronze at the Winter Youth Olympics

Despite a flurry of jump issues, Winter Youth Olympics champion Mao Shimada extended her incredible streak of victories in international competitions to nine.

The mark of a true champion is one who can prevail when they are not at their best. And that was the case on Tuesday, January 30 as world junior titlist Mao Shimada held on to her lead after the short program despite three under-rotations in her free skate and emerged with the gold medal at the Winter Youth Olympics in South Korea.

Skating before an audience at Gangneung Ice Arena that included 2010 Olympic champion Yuna Kim and IOC president Thomas Bach, the 15-year-old Shimada added yet another noteworthy triumph to her resume with a five-point victory over South Korean rival Jia Shin.

Shimada's winning total score was 196.99 points, with Shin moving up from third after the short program to claim the silver with 191.83 and Shimada's compatriot Yo Takagi capturing the bronze on 183.20.

Shin's teammate Yuseong Kim came in fourth with 181.53.

The win by Shimada gave Japan its third gold ever in figure skating at the Winter Youth Olympics, with the young star joining Yuma Kagiyama (2020) and Sota Yamamoto (2016) on that rare list.

Winter Youth Olympics
Mao Shimada competes in the women's free skate at the Winter Youth Olympics on January 30. (OIS/via KYODO)

Shimada Recovers From a Rough Start

Shimada skated to "Benedictus" and got off to a rough start as her opening triple axel was judged one quarter rotation short. The Kyoto native then fell on her quadruple toe loop, and was dinged on both ends of her triple lutz/triple toe loop combination jump, where she was a quarter short on the front end and under-rotated the back end.

Shimada received two more under-rotations on the first two legs of her three-combination jump (triple salchow/triple toe loop/double toe loop), but despite the miscues she was carried to victory by a strong second half of her routine and her program component scores. She received level fours on all of her spins.

It is unclear what prompted the flurry of jump issues for Shimada, but she did have a rough go of it during the six-minute warmup preceding the free skate. Nevertheless, when all was said and done, she was on top of the podium once again, extending her incredible streak of victories in international competitions to nine.

Winter Youth Olympics
Mao Shimada in action during her free skate routine. (OIS/IOC/Handout via REUTERS)

Shimada Overcomes Nerves to Capture the Winter Youth Olympics Title

"I knew it was going to be loud here but I was still really nervous," Shimada was quoted as saying by Olympics.com. "Jia skated so well before me and the crowd was so much more intense than what I imagined.

"This was my goal all along and while I didn’t openly say it here, I was out to win a gold medal. It makes me so happy that I did it, and I’m glad to see my friend Yo on the podium with me."

"This season was so frustrating for me but every time something didn’t go right, I worked harder and I think that’s the reason why I managed to perform under this kind of pressure."

Winter Youth Olympics
Jia Shin in a September 2023 file photo. (ⒸISU)

It's just a shoe!

Shin and Takagi Collect Winter Youth Olympics Medals

The 15-year-old Shin put on a lovely performance to "Not About Angels" and "Portion of Eternity" before the home crowd, hitting five clean triples and receiving level fours on two of her spins.

However, Shin received no score for her first spin and was judged to have under-rotated a triple flip, both of which proved costly in the end as she finished runner-up to Shimada once again in a major competition.

"I was too nervous today,” Shin told reporters in Gangneung. "I was fortunate I didn't make any big mistakes until the end, [and] I feel really happy to get a medal in front of the home crowd.

"Because I was so nervous, while I was skating, I couldn't skate smoothly or fast. If I had one more chance, I wish I could do better in that area."

Yo Takagi in a September 2023 file photo. (KYODO)

Takagi, a 16-year-old from Tokyo, was in second after the short program and stayed on the podium with a solid skate to "The Mission" and "Whispers In A Dream." She landed four clean triples and earned level fours on two of her spins. Her only significant mistake came when she singled a planned triple lutz midway through her routine.

Wednesday will be a practice day for the skaters, with the team event set to conclude the figure skating competition on Thursday.

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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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