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Figure Skating

Shoma Uno Returns to Form with a Smooth Short Program at the Japan Championships

Opening with his patented quadruple flip at the Japan Championships in Nagano, Uno delivered a stellar performance to build a commanding lead.

Two-time world champion Shoma Uno is halfway to winning his sixth national title after taking a commanding lead in the Japan Championships short program on Thursday night, December 21 at Big Hat Ice Arena in Nagano. 

Uno put forth a sublime performance and will take a huge margin of 10 points into Saturday's free skate.

The star, who has struggled with under-rotations in his past two competitions, was in form this night and is in first place with 104.69 points. Sota Yamamoto is in second with 94.58, while Beijing Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama is third at 93.94.

World junior champion Kao Miura, who struggled with illness at the Grand Prix Final earlier this month, stands in fourth on 93.91. Shun Sato is fifth with 89.90.

The 26-year-old Uno, a three-time Olympic medalist, skated to "I Love You Kung Fu" and "Clair de Lune." He opened with his patented quadruple flip, followed by a quad toe loop/double toe loop combination jump. Then he went on to hit a beautiful triple axel and earned level fours on all of his spins and step sequence.

Having finished second at all three of his GP events this campaign, Uno is looking for redemption this week and hopes to do it with a victory that would pull him even with Yuzuru Hanyu for the total number of Japan Championships won.

Japan Championships
Shoma Uno (KYODO)

Uno Shares Thoughts About On-Ice Frustration

"I have worked on my jumps very hard, and to be honest, the practice has not been fun since the NHK Trophy," Uno was quoted as saying. "When you have a certain image in mind and you can't pull it off, it's a little frustrating, but I really wanted to fight."

Uno said that competing in the Japan Championships brings with it a certain level of anxiety.

"I have competed at all kinds of competitions, the Olympics included, but the nationals stress the most," Uno admitted.

Japan Championships
Sota Yamamoto performs his rendition of "Chameleon." (KYODO)

Yamamoto in Second as He Bids to Make the Worlds Team

Yamamoto, who won Skate Canada in October but struggled to a sixth-place finish at the Cup of China, competed to "Chameleon" and had a strong showing. The 23-year-old also began with a quad flip, followed by a quad toe loop/double toe loop combo, and cleanly landed his triple axel as well. He notched level fours on his spins and step sequence.

After missing out on qualifying for the GP Final, Yamamoto is looking for a podium finish that will put him in the running for the team for the world championships in Montreal in March.

"The time before the nationals was very hard for me," Yamamoto declared. "I had good training days and bad ones. But I was able to make it through and I'm happy to have come here. I enjoyed it a lot today."

Japan Championships
Yuma Kagiyama (KYODO)

It's just a shoe!

Fall Proves Costly for Kagiyama

Kagiyama's skate to "Believer" got off to a rough start as he fell on his opening quad salchow. The 20-year-old recovered to land a nice quad toe loop/triple toe loop combo and a triple axel. He recorded level fours on his spins and step sequence.

Kagiyama is continuing his comeback from an injury that forced him to miss almost all of the 2022-23 season. If he had not fallen on the quad salchow, he would likely be right behind Uno in the standings with over 100 points.

"I'm quite disappointed about today's performance," Kagiyama commented, adding, "I was very nervous. In the warmup, I was moving well, but when I did my preparations, I started to notice that the competition was starting and when I went into my program, I failed on the salchow."

Added Kagiyama, "I will check my scores later to see how the other elements were rated. If I land the salchow, I could have renewed my season's best score."

Japan Championships
Kao Miura skates to "This Place Was a Shelter." (Ⓒ SANKEI)

Rough Finish Impacts Miura's Tally

Miura competed to "This Place Was a Shelter" and looked fantastic at the outset. The 18-year-old opened with a huge quad salchow/triple toe loop combo, followed by a solid triple axel. 

He went on to hit a quad toe loop and received level fours on his first spin and step sequence. But he came undone on his final two spins, mustering just 2.25 points between them.

"Personally, I think I did well," Miura remarked. "I feel that it was the best short program of this season. Considering the fact that I felt unwell, I would like to tell myself that I did well."

Miura revealed that he was under the weather again throughout the day.

"I had a stomach ache when I got up this morning and I felt nausea, so I decided to skip the practice," Miura stated.

The Japan Championships will continue on Friday with the women's short program with two-time world champion Kaori Sakamoto seeking a fourth Japan title.

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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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