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Figure Skating

Yuma Kagiyama Holds Off Shoma Uno to Win the NHK Trophy

Kagiyama took a five-point lead into the NHK Trophy men's free skate and needed almost all of it to stave off Uno for the win in Kadoma, Osaka Prefecture.

Beijing Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama showed he is all the way back from the ankle injury that sidelined him for most of the 2022-23 season with a narrow victory over two-time world champion Shoma Uno at the NHK Trophy on Saturday night, November 25 in Kadoma, Osaka Prefecture.

The 20-year-old Kagiyama took a five-point lead into the free skate and needed almost all of it to stave off Uno for the win at Ractab Dome. 

For Kagiyama, the triumph clinched a spot in the Grand Prix Final for him for the first time as a senior skater.

Kagiyama's winning total score was 288.39 points, less than two ahead of Uno, who finished second with 286.55. 

Switzerland's Lukas Britschgi took third at 254.60.

NHK Trophy
NHK Trophy men's winner Yuma Kagiyama (right) and silver medalist Shoma Uno pose for a photograph during the awards ceremony. (KYODO/via REUTERS)

Kagiyama only attempted two quadruple jumps in his skate to "Rain, in Your Black Eyes," but they were both well executed. 

His opening quad salchow was a thing of beauty and earned him a whopping 14.00 points. He followed that with a quad toe loop/Euler/double salchow and then clinically moved through the rest of his program.

Kagiyama landed four clean triples and earned level fours on all of his spins and step sequence. He did fall on a triple axel midway through his routine. But he was nearly flawless in all the other elements and that helped carry him to the top of the podium.

NHK Trophy
Yuma Kagiyama (KYODO)

Kagiyama Shares Thoughts on NHK Trophy Triumph

"I didn't think about the outcome and just focused on the elements and what I had to do," Kagiyama stated in an interview after the win. "Skating last makes you nervous, but skating with Shoma is so much fun and I will get to do it again at the Grand Prix Final."

Kagiyama said he is determined to put on another great show at the GP Final in Beijing (December 7-10).

"I hope to improve much more than today," Kagiyama commented.

He added, "I hope to have a perfect short program and free skate there, [and] I want to put all of my energy into it."

NHK Trophy
Shoma Uno (KYODO)

Uno Also Qualifies for the GP Final

Uno did not have his best outing, as he struggled with jumps throughout his skate to "Timelapse" and Spiegel im Spiegel." He did win the free skate by almost 3.5 points over Kagiyama (186.35 to 182.88). But he was judged a quarter rotation short on all four quads he attempted and also penalized one point for a time violation.

Taking second place qualified Uno for the GP Final, where he will seek to defend the title he won in the 2022-23 season in Turin, Italy.

"It was a good performance, in my opinion," Uno remarked. "Immediately after it ended, I felt a lot of emotions, but now I think I'm going to go home slowly, thinking that I did a good job."

Added Uno, "I stumbled on the first jump, [and] I hurriedly arranged a structure similar to the Cup of China."

Uno then remarked, "I want to say that for now, I feel like I'm going to talk about unnecessary things otherwise. [And] I would like to go home in silence."

Tatsuya Tsuboi was ninth with 216.62.

NHK Trophy
Ava Marie Ziegler in action in the women's free skate. (KYODO)

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American Ziegler Captures Women's Title in Huge Upset

Earlier Saturday, Ava Marie Ziegler of the United States stunned the veteran field of skaters to come from fifth place after the short program to win with a fantastic free skate. The 17-year-old's first GP medal ever is gold and illustrates that on a given day a skater can rise to the occasion and surpass expectations.

Ziegler's previous best result in a GP came at Skate Canada in 2022 when she was fourth. She came in fifth at the GP Espoo in Finland last week.

But it was a different story on Saturday for the daughter of a skating coach.

Ziegler's winning total was 200.50 as she led a 1-2 finish for the US with compatriot Lindsay Thorngren, whose tally in second was 198.73. Belgium's Nina Pinzarrone rounded out the podium in third with 194.66.

NHK Trophy
NHK Trophy women's winner Ava Marie Ziegler (center), runner-up Lindsay Thorngren (left) and third-place finisher Nina Pinzarrone display their medals after the competition. (KYODO)

Yuna Aoki was Japan's top finisher in fifth at 184.46, while Mai Mihara took eighth with 172.64, and Wakaba Higuchi ninth on 165.69.

NHK Trophy
Mai Mihara (KYODO)

Ziegler, a native of Morristown, New Jersey, landed six clean triples in her free skate to "Liberation" and "Bound to You" that was choreographed by Nikolai Morozov. She earned level fours on all of her spins and step sequence as she improved her personal best score by some 27 points.

"This is the moment I do this sport for," Ziegler stated. "To put out a clean skate in front of this amazing crowd. You put in so much hard work and today it paid off. Last year I was really struggling keeping and finding the love for the sport again."

Added Ziegler, "I am so happy. When the number 200 came up it felt surreal."

NHK Trophy
Yuna Aoki participates in the women's free skate program. (KYODO)

Satisfying Experience for Aoki

The 21-year-old Aoki, skating in her first senior GP, had some jump issues but put forth a respectable showing to "She" that gained level fours for all of her spins and step sequence.

"I calmed down and could pull off everything like in training," Aoki commented before adding, "I'm very happy to have been able to show my personal skating skills without mistakes on such a big stage.

She then said, "I was very nervous and my legs were trembling, so my coach told me to enjoy and I relaxed."

Hase, Volodin Claim Pairs Crown

Germany's Minerva Hase and Nikita Volodin retained their lead after the short program to win the pairs with 202.51 and their second straight GP event. Italy's Lucrezia Beccari and Matteo Guarise finished second at 190.31, while their compatriots Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini were third on 186.47.

Japan's Yuna Nagaoka and Sumitada Moriguchi ended up eighth at 135.39.

NHK Trophy
Pairs skaters Yuna Nagaoka (right) and Sumitada Moriguchi glide across the ice in their free skate program. (KYODO)

Fear, Gibson Victorious in Ice Dance

Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain won the ice dance with 215.19. The duo was in second after the rhythm dance but moved up to get the gold ahead of world silver medalists Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy, who were second with 214.56. Lithuania's Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius took third at 196.86.

Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto came in ninth on 167.61.

The NHK Trophy will conclude with the Exhibition Gala on Sunday.

In 2024, the NHK Trophy will be held in Tokyo.

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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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