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Rio Nakata Captures Silver at the World Junior Championships

In earning a runner-up finish at the World Junior Championships, 15-year-old Nakata was nearly flawless after an early miscue in Taipei.

Rio Nakata came up just short in his bid for gold and had to settle for silver despite a valiant effort in his free skate at the World Junior Championships at Taipei Arena on Saturday night, March 2.

The 15-year-old vaulted from fifth place after the short program and moved into the lead after his performance, only to see South Korea's Minkyu Seo edge him by just over one point for the title as the final skater of the evening.

Seo's winning total score was 230.75 points, while Nakata tallied 229.31 in second. Slovakia's Adam Hagara finished with 225.61 to get the bronze.

World Junior Championships
Men's world junior champion Minkyu Seo (center), silver medalist Rio Nakata (left) and third-place finisher Adam Hagara stand during the medal ceremony at Taipei Arena. (©ISU)

Shunsuke Nakamura came all the way from 10th place after the short program to place fourth with 215.46, while Haru Kakiuchi ended up 17th on 192.82.

Seo Keeps Poise Under Pressure at World Junior Championships

Seo led Nakata by almost three points after the short program on Thursday, and needed all of that margin to top the podium this night. 

The 15-year-old from Daegu competed to "Notre Dame De Paris" and began with a triple axel/double toe loop combination jump. Then he singled his planned triple axel on the next jump, which appeared to open the door for Nakata have a shot at the gold.

But Seo dug deep and kept his poise, moving through the rest of his program with no significant errors. He also landed seven triples and notched level fours on all of his spins.

"It feels so amazing," Seo stated after his victory. "I want to thank my parents, who made this possible. It was not always easy for me to find the facilities to train, so I am really thankful to them."

Added Seo, "After I popped the second axel I felt a bit embarrassed, but I still had too many elements to go and focus on. I knew I had the possibility to win and be the first Korean [man] to win junior worlds, but I tried not to think about it and stayed calm."

World Junior Championships
World Junior Championships men's runner-up Rio Nakata (KYODO)

Hard Charge Nearly Nets Nakata Gold

Nakata, who was victorious at the Junior Grand Prix Final in December 2023 in Beijing, won the free skate with a dynamic effort. He skated to a James Bond Medley, and after over-rotating his opening quadruple toe loop and having to step out on the landing, was nearly flawless with the rest of his elements. 

Nakata landed seven clean triple jumps and earned level fours on all of his spins.

World Junior Championships
Rio Nakata (KYODO)

"I'm upset about making a mistake with the quad," Nakata commented. "But the rest went as planned, so I think it was good. I was nervous but I really wanted to work hard for the sake of next year."

Added Nakata, "I got extremely nervous with my short program. Compared to that, the free program was much easier to do."

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Hagara Makes History for Slovakia

Hagara was impressive in his performance to "Dream On," hitting eight triples and recording level fours on all of his spins. His medal was the first ever for Slovakia at the world juniors.

"It feels amazing. Winning a medal at worlds was always my goal," Hagara noted. "So winning one here at junior worlds is maybe a good step into my upcoming senior career. 

"Compared to the JGP Final, this competition felt better. At the final many things were a bit messy, here everything went really smoothly."

World Junior Championships
Shunsuke Nakamura performs his rendition of "Child of Nazareth" in the men's free skate. (KYODO)

Nakamura Battles Back in Free Skate

Nakamura showed real grit by digging out of a big hole after the short program to get close to the podium. The 18-year-old skated to "Child of Nazareth" and began with a big quad toe loop, but fell on a triple axel midway through his routine. 

He ended up hitting six clean triples and registering level fours on two of his spins and a level three on the other.

"My coach told me I had to put in strength and give it my all," Nakamura remarked. "This competition had been the one I worked the most hard for and my condition matched it. 

"I'm happy that I was able to skate my free for the last time."

World Junior Championships
Haru Kakiuchi in action in the men's free skate at Taipei Arena. (KYODO)

Kakiuchi Recovers After Rough Start

Kakiuchi competed to "Wake Me Up" and fell on his opening quad toe loop. He bounced back to land seven triples and post level fours on all of his spins.

"I thought I might not be able to land the triple lutz as the last jump, so I'm glad I was able to do it," Kakiuchi said. "It was a competition where I could put out what I'm capable of at the moment. 

"I'm a little disappointed about the quad toe loop. But I'm glad I was able to do everything besides that, I think it was good."

Neset, Markelov Collect Gold in Ice Dance

Leah Neset and Artem Markelov of the United States retained their lead after the rhythm dance to capture the gold in ice dance with 169.76. Israel's Elizabeth Tkachenko and Alexei Kiliakov claimed the silver at 162.68, while Germany's Darya Grimm and Michail Savitskiy collected the bronze on 162.13.

For Japan, Sara Kishimoto and Atsuhiko Tamura finished 12th with 140.87.

World Junior Championships
Ice dancers Sara Kishimoto and Atsuhiko Tamura glide across the ice in their free dance program. (KYODO)

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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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