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Figure Skating

Shoma Uno Equals Yuzuru Hanyu with Sixth Victory at the Japan Championships

Taking the ice knowing he had to produce something solid in his free skate to seal the win at the Japan Championships, Uno did that with his usual panache.

Two-time world champion Shoma Uno captured his sixth national title with a clutch performance in the free skate at the Japan Championships on Saturday night, December 23 at Big Hat Ice Arena in Nagano. 

The 26-year-old Uno rose to the occasion following fantastic efforts by both Yuma Kagiyama and Sota Yamamoto, the two skaters who took the ice immediately before him.

Uno's winning total score was 298.04 points, good enough for a comfortable victory over Kagiyama, who was second with 292.10. Yamamoto finished third at 287.00.

The result gave Uno his sixth crown at the Japan Championships, equaling the number won by Yuzuru Hanyu during his illustrious career.

World junior champion Kao Miura finished fourth with 280.08, while Shun Sato came in fifth on 273.04.

Japan Championships
Japan Championships men's winner Shoma Uno (center), runner-up Yuma Kagiyama (left) and third-place finisher Sota Yamamoto display their medals after the competition in Nagano. (KYODO)

Uno held a 10-point lead after the short program and that helped him stave off an incredible charge from Kagiyama, who put out a spectacular free skate this night.

Taking the ice knowing he had to produce something solid, Uno did that with his usual panache in his skate to "Timelapse" and "Spiegel im Spiegel."

Uno's first jump, a quadruple loop, was a bit shaky and judged a quarter rotation short, but his routine started to flow from there, as he landed two clean quads and three triples.

Japan Championships
Shoma Uno (KYODO)

Uno Secures Japan Championships Victory with Impressive Display of Skills and Presentation

The Nagoya native earned level fours for all of his spins and step sequence as his skating skills and presentation helped carry him to the top of the podium once again.

"Everyone put in some great performances today, and I'm really happy that I was able to win," Uno stated. "Still, I think my performance was inferior compared to everyone else. I think it was a performance that suited my condition, including the short program and free skate."

Uno took a moment to reflect on the path that resulted in his six titles.

"Looking back, I am acutely aware of how long it has been, and there have been many situations in which I have competed in the Japan Championships," Uno commented. "I feel that I have finally been able to keep my feet on the ground and compete in the past few years."

Japan Championships
Yuma Kagiyama landed seven triples in his free skate routine. (KYODO)

Kagiyama Almost Back from Injury

Kagiyama was sublime in his skate to "Rain, in Your Black Eyes," hitting two fine quads and seven triples in a stunning show of power and execution on the way to winning the free skate. The 20-year-old, who was the silver medalist at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, posted level fours on all of his spins and step sequence and had the packed house spellbound with his performance from start to finish.

This result clinched Kagiyama's place on Japan's team for the 2024 World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal without question. It again illustrated that he has nearly returned to full power following a serious ankle injury that cost him almost all of the 2022-23 season.

"No matter what competition this is, I wanted to show a perfect performance because almost everyone was amazing," Kagiyama remarked. "I didn't focus too much on my results, I wanted to focus on myself and on what I had to do."

Added Kagiyama, "I tried not to watch the others. Since training, I felt that everyone was going to have a great performance, and when I heard the audience cheering, I wanted to ride on that wave."

Japan Championships
Sota Yamamoto performs his rendition of "Exogenesis Symphony Part 3." (KYODO)

It's just a shoe!

Yamamoto Meets the Moment in Impressive Outing

Yamamoto skated to "Exogenesis Symphony Part 3" and had a gutsy showing. He didn't have the polish of Uno or the speed of Kagiyama but did land three quads and six triples and notched level fours on all his spins and step sequence.

The 24-year-old took the ice well aware that he was battling Miura for the third spot on the world team, and likely secured it under huge pressure. He pumped his fist three times after landing jumps, adding some flair to his showing.

Yamamoto was disappointed to not make the Grand Prix Final this season but said he didn't let that weigh him down.

"There were good times and bad times, and there were really tough days. But I'm glad I did my best even through those times," Yamamoto said. "This is the result I was aiming for, but I want to look even further ahead, set my goals even higher, and grow even more."

Japan Championships
Kao Miura (KYODO)

Miura Gives It His All in Bid for Trip to Worlds

Miura competed to the "Attack On Titan" soundtrack and gave it his all in a bid to make the senior worlds team for the first time. The 18-year-old landed three quads but received a negative grade of execution on one of them (a quad salchow). He added six triples and also notched level fours on all of his spins and step sequence.

"I had many concerns and overcame so many hurdles to make it here, then I became emotional," Miura noted. "Compared to two years ago, my skating is different and I'm in a different position."

Added Miura, "Two years ago, I just rose to the senior class. I was a challenger and I was so nervous because Mr Hanyu was there."

Japan Championships
Shun Sato (KYODO)

Sato on the Cusp of Joining Elite

Sato landed three quads and five triples in his skate to "Four Seasons" to move up from sixth place after the short program, but could not replicate the levels of the top four.

"This season was good, but to fight with the world, I need to tackle more quadruple jumps and also nail the lutz in the short program," Sato stated. "There are many things I need to work on. But first of all, I want to do more quads like the loop and the salchow."

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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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