Home Figure Skating News Uno wins first Grand Prix Final gold

Uno wins first Grand Prix Final gold

by Paula Slater
Iana Saveleva
 2022-23 Grand Prix Final Men Free skate

Shoma Uno of Japan performs his Free Skate at the 2022-23 Grand Prix Final in Torino, Italy.

2022-23 Grand Prix Final: Men’s Free Skate

Shoma Uno of Japan finally won his first Grand Prix Final gold medal in Torino, Italy, on Saturday afternoon. The two-time Olympic medalist has medaled before at this event, taking two bronzes (2015  & 2016) and two silvers (2017 & 2018). Teammate Sota Yamamoto took the silver in his debut at this event, while USA’s Ilia Malinin climbed from fifth place to capture the bronze.

Shoma Uno (JPN)

Uno gave a brilliant routine that earned a new season’s best of 204.47 with his program to “Air on the G String” and “Sanctus Petrus Et Sancta Maria Magdalena: Mea tormenta, properate!” The reigning world champion landed a total of five quads: loop, Salchow, flip, and quad toe-double toe, and toe. His fifth quad, the toe, had a tight landing, but the first four quads earned many positive grades of execution. The skater, who turns 25 later this month, also received a level four on two of his spins and footwork. With a total score of 304.46, he distanced himself from the rest of the field by over 30 points.

The skater from Nagoya told the press in the mixed zone that he felt he could improve on his combinations as he had some mistakes there.

“I’m happy about winning, and just looking at the people who have been supporting me overjoyed and full of explosive joy, made me feel very happy,” said the Uno. “I think everything that I trained for I was able to show in competition here today. But at the same time, I feel that there is a lot of room to grow. So going into my next competition, I want to make sure that I can increase the level of my performance.”

Reflecting on competing against Yamamoto in in the Junior Grand Prix Final in 2014, Uno acknowledged that he didn’t know how long they would continue to skate.

“Nobody knows the future, but we hope there will be no accidents, no injuries,” he said. “And just like we did today, if we can continue to practice and do well in the performance in the competition, that will be great. After all, it’s a competition. There are winners and there is always a first place and a second place, but it will be nice if we could enjoy this relationship of always competing against each other. It’s a good rivalry, and I think we can continue that for some time to come. And even if there are those end results in the competition, in training we help each other. We are always there to inspire each other to reach the higher standards, and that’s what we enjoy.”

Uno will start preparing now for his 12th consecutive national championships, which will be held later this month in Osaka. When asked if he was more nervous about the Grand Prix Final or nationals, he said, “probably nationals.”

“For the two Grand Prix events and the Japan Open, I was a little bit more tense,” he admitted. “This Grand Prix Final I wasn’t nervous at all. It was business as usual. My mind was in a great place and my performance was just as usual. I don’t know how emotional I will be in the nationals, but with all four Japanese skaters who took part in this Grand Prix Final, the nationals will be very tough in terms of how we have a better condition. This is because it’s such a short time from this competition. I just want to wish that everybody will be able to put their best performance without an injury.”

Sota Yamamoto (JPN)

Yamamoto had the crowd on it’s feet after his exquisite and dynamic routine to “Piano Concerto No.2.” The skater, who took silver at both individual Grand Prix events, particularly focused. He landed a solid quad Salchow, quad toe-triple toe and quad toe. The only small errors were a quarter underrotation on a triple Axel and and edge call on a triple Lutz. All three spins were graded a level four, and the skater from Aichi finished third in the free skate with a new personal best of 179.49. With a total score of 274.35, he was able to maintain second place overall.

“This season I was not able to on put a satisfactory performance for my free skating,” said the 22-year-old. “So, this time I was able to put exactly what I’ve been training for at the competition. I’m really happy about that, and being on the podium was also one of my goals, so achieving that makes me very happy!”

Yamamoto also recalled when competing against Uno during their junior years and felt that Uno was one of the “closest” goals he had.

“It was also a really nice experience that we ended up on the podium as junior skaters,” he said. “But then later on, Shoma really advanced to the seniors and became more of a wonderful skater. He became more of a goal, even an aspiration up there. For me, it took me more time to get to where I am today, but again, I am able to call him a goal and maybe now I’m a little bit closer to the goal. Maybe once again I can aspire to be close to Shoma and increase my level further.”

Yamamoto didn’t feel too nervous going into the Grand Prix Final as he didn’t feel he was in a position of challenging.

“This competition I just wanted to put out everything I could, and that’s exactly what I did,” he said. “The nationals, the four skaters here and other skaters, are very high level. I think this performance in the Grand Prix Final, the result of all of it, I will consider as a good experience. But I’m just going to forget all about it, and in the upcoming week, I’ll make sure I tune myself up to the condition going into the nationals.”

Ilia Malinin (USA)

Malinin put out a spectacular routine to music from the “Euphoria,” landing a solid quad Axel right out the gate. The jump racked up 15.54 points alone with the GOES. The 2022 World Junior Champion went on to land a quad flip, quad toe, and quad—all of which were solid. The only small error came when he slightly underrotated the back-end of a quad toe-Euler-triple Salchow. He was also rewarded a level four on his footwork and scored 191.84 for a second-place free skate.

“I really trusted my training,” said Malinin, who suffered a leg injury before coming into the event. “I was still surprised how I pulled that landing of the quad Axel off. We took off all the Lutzes, because it hurt doing them. We tried to take pressure off the leg, give it some rest and that’s going alright.”

Malinin feels that the most difficult part of the quad Axel is “just being confident and brave enough to attempt.”

“I think that I feel that I was physically ready for the jump for a long time,” said the 18-year-old. “I think I couldn’t get it over that mental barrier, and I think that recently, when I starting practicing it more, I was starting to feel a little bit more confident in myself. Once I got over that fence, I really started feeling more confident in myself and started being able to go for it and really rotate it. I think that overtime, I get used to landing it a lot, and I think that I’ll get the muscle memory. Hopefully, I’ll be landing it a lot more consistently.”

The  U.S. National silver medalist was a top contender coming into the event, but his sub-par short program cost him dearly. However, with a total score of 271.94, the skater from Virginia was able to move up two spots onto the podium for the bronze. Nevertheless, there were mixed emotions after he finished his program.

“After I landed all my jumps I was so shocked at how I was able to pull this off with all the preparations,’ said Malinin. “I didn’t have such a great preparation for this competition. I just stayed confident in myself and made sure that everything would be going as good as possible and just to trust my training. During the program, I just had a fun time, and after all the jumps, I just get to perform for the audience. It’s really fun, even though my legs were giving up on me. I said I can’t give up on the program yet, so I just had a fun time. It was a great experience here competing with all the other athletes, and I enjoyed watching as well. They inspire me, and I hope inspire them too.”

“I’m just very glad that I’m here after all these years,” summed up the 2022 World Junior Champion. “I really wanted to go to the Grand Prix Final. Now that I’m here, I definitely worked my way up from being ‘not the best’ to hopefully trying to see a lot of growth and developing of my skating. I felt really happy with myself and what I have achieved in this competition, and I’m glad that I got a medal. I think that it’s always fine to make mistakes, and you learn from them. You just make sure to improve from them and keep growing.”

Shun Sato (JPN)

Sato was focused and determined in his routine to “Red Violin,” reeling off a quad Lutz, quad toe-triple toe, and quad toe. All three quads were clean and the 18-year-old from Saitama also produced two solid triple Axels while receiving a level four on two spins. Overall, it was a very solid program for the 2022 Grand Prix Espoo silver medalist, and he placed fourth in the free skate with 173.54 points. With a total score of 250.16, he moved up one two spots to fourth overall.

“I was able to skate calmly and bring out a performance of what I can do,” said the happy 18-year-old. “I had a day off after the short program, so I was able to relax and skate.”

Sato is looking forward to competing with Yuma Kagiyama at the upcoming nationals. Kagiyama missed the series due a foot injury.

“Of course, we wanted to compete at the Final together very badly, but at the nationals we will have the opportunity to skate against each other,” said Sato. “So I will continue to improve and work on my skating abilities.”

Kao Miura (JPN)

Miura showed great speed in his program to music from Beauty and the Beast, but did a triple loop in the opening instead of a planned quad. He went on to land a solid quad toe-triple toe, but later doubled a quad toe. While his solo triple Axel was solid, he then fell on his final jump near the end—a quad toe. The skater received a level four on two spins, but it was not enough to keep him third place. The 2022 Four Continents bronze medalist finished sixth in the free skate and fifth overall (158.67/245.74).

“Even before the start, I wasn’t focused,” said the 17-year-old from Yokohama, adding that his legs were shaking when he stepped on the ice. “I was skating with shaking legs, I couldn’t help it. It was a failure. I watched the skater who skated before me, the Italian skater, and when it was my turn, everyone was cheering for him and I couldn’t focus. My jumps were bad, my skating was bad, too. I couldn’t leave a good impression in anything.”

“I want to connect this frustration with the nationals and win, and give it all” he added. “Next year, I want to return to the Final and win. It’s a big plus to have made this experience at a young age. I showed this terrible shape in front of everyone, and I never want to make this experience again. I learned about my weaknesses, so I will train much harder.”

Daniel Grassl (ITA)

Grassl delivered a good performance, showing good connection with music, but received an edge call on his opening quad Lutz. The following two jumps—quad flip and quad loop—were a quarter underrotated. Both triple Lutzes received an edge call and the back-end of a triple flip-triple toe was underrotated. The 2022 European silver medalist received a level four spins and footwork in his routine to music arranged by Cedric Tour, and his free-skate score of 164.57 placed him fifth in this segment and sixth overall (244.97).

The four-time national champion was happy with how he fought, but admitted to having a “very strong fever” and was ill.

“his competition was very difficult for me,” said the 20-year-old from Merano. “Most of it, of the free program, I really cried before, because I really didn’t want to do it. I was feeling too bad, but I’m really happy with how I fought the whole program.”

Grassl was also happy with his quad loop as he just re-introduced it recently, and feels it is going well.

“After the fall I had in Lake Placid, I got a bit scared of trying it again, but I’m happy about how I fought to do it again.”

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