2022-23 Japanese Nationals: Men’s Recap
Shoma Uno ruled the ice at the 91st National Championships (第９１回全日本フィギュアスケート選手権大会) on Sunday, winning his fifth national title. The competition was held from December 22-25 at the Towa Pharmaceutical RACTAB Dome, a centrally located arena in the metropolitan city of Osaka. Koshiro Shimada maintained second place, while Kazuki Tomono rose from fourth to capture the third spot on the podium.
Uno once again proved that he has the necessary skills to take first place with a large-point lead after scoring 100.45 in his short to “Gravity.” The skater clearly outshone his rivals on the second day of the competition, not only showing off his amazing skating skills, but also firing up the audience with an expressive performance. Despite the fact that he only added a double toe to his quad to, the quad flip and triple Axel were solid.
“This morning, my body felt kind of stiff,” said Uno, who attracted attention with a new costume during training. “My legs didn’t move and I didn’t catch the feeling of the ice. When many reasons are responsible for feeling differently, one doesn’t know what to work on. So I tried a different costume, but I noticed that this wasn’t the reason.”
Uno seduced the audience to the Baroque-era with his free skate to Bach’s “Air,” catching everyone’s attention with elegant choreography. He nailed his opening quad loop, but doubled the quad Salchow and then fell on a quad flip. He was able to recover and skate clean until the end, producing a quad toe-triple toe and quad toe-double toe while receiving high levels for his spins and step sequence. He easily ruled the competition with 191.28 in the free skate and 291.73 overall.
“I’m happy that I won this competition,” said Uno. “After I had the mistakes in the first half, I really wanted to make up for them in the second. As soon as I nailed my triple Axel, I felt confident and calmed down.”
“My short program and free skate were not as good as during my training, but for me, it was a good performance,” he added. “Of course, I had two mistakes, but I was able to make up for them in the second half of the program. It was a competition, so it can happen that I miss elements I was able to perform in my training, but I think that I reached a much higher level.”
Uno reflected on his music choice in that he felt it depicts the transience of beauty that is often showed in baroque art and music.
“I use this beautiful piece for my free skate, but I’m skating as an athlete in order to succeed in competitions,” he explained. “So when I focus too much on a story, it might affect my results in a negative way. With the rules changed, I need to focus on my skating techniques and on the jumps. After that, I can work on my expressions and on a story.”
Uno has not been training in Switzerland often, but the year before, he was there for a very long time.
“I support Koshi a lot as an athlete, and he’s putting a lot of effort to achieve his results,” Uno said of Shimada. “We’ve known each other for a very long time, even before we started training together in a team. Of course we have our passion for skating in common, but we used to play video games together as friends for many days, and that’s why I want him to do his best. I was very happy that he was standing next to me on the podium.”
The competition took a surprising turn for Shimada as he sat in second place (87.69) after his short to “Sing, Sing, Sing.” He turned out the landing of a quad Salchow and then slightly underrotated the front-end of a quad toe-triple toe. However, he received high grades of execution (GOE) for his triple Axel.
“I didn’t pay attention to my surroundings, but focused entirely on myself,” said Shimada. “Also, I tried not to think about the placings, and did what I could do.”
Shimada had a shaky start in is free skate to “City Lights” after stepping out of a quad Salchow, but he then nailed a quad toe. He performed a great first half, feeling the music in his choreography and getting high levels for his spins and steps. Everything seemed to be going as planned until he dropped two rotations on his triple flip. Nevertheless, his performance was enough to secure the silver medal (164.87/252.56).
“I’m so happy!” he said. “Right after finishing my program, I didn’t realize that I was second. I still can’t believe the result. Throughout my program, I had many mistakes and I had the feeling that I endured and endured. I know it wasn’t too good, but I don’t remember too well what I did during my performance, so I will re-watch a recording with Stephane (Lambiel) to discuss what to work on next.”
Since training in Switzerland, Shimada has says he has not only grown as a skater, but also as a person.
“Of course, when it comes to my skating, I’m not only trying to improve my skating to a perfect level, but my love and my passion for skating are growing as well. For a skater, Champery is a great place to live in!”
Tomono had already heated up the audience in his short to “Happy Jazz.” He took a fall on a quad toe, which was costly, and tried to tack the triple toe onto the second jump, quad Salchow, but it was only a double. He was fourth going into the free skate (85.43).
The skater had a promising start in his free skate to “Die Fledermaus Overture,” opening with a quad toe-triple toe, but then doubled the quad toe and slightly underrotated a quad Salchow. He quickly recovered to dance the waltz into the second half, and concluded the routine to rapturous applause. He received a level four for all spins, scoring 165.41 points for fourth place in the free skate. With a total score of 250.84, he managed to make the podium with less than a point to spare.
“I was scared, but I managed to stay focused and made it to the end step by step,” said Tomono of his performance. “Usually, when I nail the first and the second jump, I start feeling confident, so I trained the second one a lot. I was frustrated that it didn’t work out.”
“Of course, there were some frustrating parts, but I’m very happy that I’ve made it to the podium,” he added. “I really feel that I’ve improved and I’ll be able to link my experiences with future competitions. I have a few regrets, but I learned a lot, so I want to use my experiences in my training and improve.”
Shun Sato fell on a triple Axel in his short program to “Carol of the Bells,” but was otherwise technically strong, finishing fifth (81.78). He had a rocky start in his long program to “Red Violin,” falling on a quad Lutz, but quickly recovered and skating passionately through the rest of the routine. The only other error was an edge call on a triple flip, but he landed a quad toe-triple toe, quad toe, and four more clean triple jumps. He scored 167.86 for third place in the free skate and moved up one spot to fourth overall (249.64).
“I feel more confident in my free skate,” said Sato. “Even if I miss my jumps, I’m able to recover. That’s why I think the free skate is my strength. After I fell, I was able to change my mindset and land the quad toe-triple toe combination.”
Following his successful participation on the Grand Prix series, Sota Yamamoto aimed for the podium, but lost his opportunity after fatal mistakes in the free skate. On his first competition day, he placed third (86.89) with a clean quad toe-triple toe, but missed his doubled his quad Salchow. Still, he managed to expressively underline the lyrics to “Yesterday” with his emotions and bring his own personality to the ice.
In his long program to Rachmaninov’s “Piano Concerto” (158.52), Yamamoto doubled his opening quad Salchow again before falling on a quad toe-triple toe attempt. He stepped out of the next quad toe and later slightly underrotated a triple Axel. He scored 158.52 for seventh place in the free skate, and with a total score of 245.41, slipped to fifth overall.
“In practice, I did everything I was capable of,” he said. “However, I wasn’t able to pull it off during my skate. But in this season, I’ve made some progress and I want to return to nationals stronger.”
Kao Miura had a pitch-black day after placing 13th (71.12) in the short program. The skater fell on both a quad Salchow-triple toe and solo quad toe. For two days, the result of his short gnawed at him, but with the help of his friends Sato and Yuma Kagiyama, he was able to overcome rock bottom and rebound in his free skate to “Beauty and the Beast.”
Miura stepped out of both the triple Axel and quad toe, but gained control of his routine to land a quad Salchow, quad toe-triple toe, and three more triples in his masterful performance. He scored 171.43 for second place in the free skate and rose to sixth place overall (242.55).
“After I turned out the landing of my triple Axel and missed my combination after the quad toe, I had to tack the lost jump to the second half,” he explained. “I felt very nervous when I did my step sequence and I told myself that I had to calm down.”
Sumitada Moriguchi, who was a pair skater with Haruna Murakami, placed seventh (241.63) in his single debut at this event.
Kagiyama finished eighth overall (237.83). The 2022 Olympic silver medalist has sat out international events this season due to a foot injury.
Uno, Tomono, and Yamamoto were selected by the Japanese Skating Federation to compete at the upcoming World Figure Skating Championships in March. Shimada, Sato, and Miura will compete at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in February.