2023 World Junior Figure Skating Championships
Men’s Free Skate
Japan’s Kao Miura gave two good performances to win the Men’s World Junior title in Calgary, AB, Can., on Saturday night. Naoki Rossi of Switzerland won the silver, while Nozomu Yoshioka of Japan rose four spots to claim the bronze.
Miura gave a brilliant and passionate performance to Beauty and the Beast, reeling off a quad toe, quad Salchow and quad toe-triple toe. The only error made was a step out on a triple loop. The 2023 Four Continents Champion also landed two triple Axels and earned a level four on two of his spins. He scored 179.63 for first place in the free skate, and his total score was 264.74—over 44 points higher than the closest competitor.
“I give myself about a 70-percent score for my performance, especially in the second half of the program,” said the 17-year-old. “I was able to land the quad-triple combination in the second half. I think that combination was actually more beautiful than my triple-triple combination in the short. This victory is not my goal, it’s just a start. Next year, I want to participate in the senior Worlds!”
Miura said it was difficult to compare his medals from Junior Worlds and the Four Continents.
“They are all precious to me,” he said. “Last year, I was third at Four Continents and came in aiming to win, so it is a satisfying result. As for this World Junior gold medal, last year I was injured and I was not satisfied with the result. This time, I came here to redeem myself, to get revenge. It is a different kind of satisfaction, but satisfying all the same.”
Miura mostly participated in senior-level competitions this season, and noted the challenges.
“The junior competitions have completely different requirements, both in the short program and the free skate. The free program being 30 seconds shorter, that feels completely different. So that was one of the challenges. Plus, having become the Four Continents champion, that added a lot of pressure for me coming into this competition. With that said, I was able to focus on what I had to do. Now that I’ve achieved my goal to win here, I can say that it was a really great experience. Going forward, it will be a very useful experience for me.”
Miura noted at the senior level that you are able to jump many quads, starting the short program, and feel that you get momentum from that right from the start.
“Obviously there are more risks associated with those more difficult jumps,” he noted, “but compared to that at the junior level, in the short program you have a lot of limitations. So, all of the skaters can only attain a certain maximum (score). So to win the junior level competitions, you have to be perfect from the start, from the short program. As for me, I dislike the junior competitions more.”
Miura, who finished sixth at nationals, had less than two weeks to prepare for Junior Worlds as he had completely different programs with different layouts.
“So that was really challenging!” he said. “On top of that, I was having to deal with the jetlag. I had been hither and yon, so I couldn’t really tell where I was anymore, what country I was in. So what I really worked at was to get relaxed, enjoy good food. Spending time that way, I think was the reason I was able to get this good result here.”
Rossi had some tight landings, but was determined to stay focused throughout his routine to music by Eternal Eclipse. The 2023 European Youth Olympic Festival junior bronze medalist landed a total of seven triple jumps. The last jump, a triple flip, received an edge call and he doubled a loop earlier in the skate, but was awarded a level four for his flying camel spin. He received many positive GOEs for all three spins, and finished third in the free skate with a new personal best of 141.22. His total score of 220.68 was enough to push him up one spot to second overall.
“I am shocked!” said Rossi in the mixed zone, joking that was going to faint. “It’s incredible, it’s not real! I can’t believe what is happening right now!”
Later, the Swiss skater told the press that he never expected to be on the podium.
“I’m very glad with my performance today,” said Rossi. “I could have done a little better as I popped the loop, but I still focused and never gave up until the end of the program. I’m really overwhelmed and I am really grateful for what I’ve achieved today. When I realized I was on the podium in the kiss and cry, then I got a little emotional.”
Rossi noted the difference in the some of the rules in elements for junior and senior requirements for this season.
“I despise the loop and it was the solo jump,” he said of the junior requirement for this year. “So I think it was pretty rough and difficult for me. When I get into seniors in the future, I will have more freedom, and I can show myself better there, including quads.”
Yoshioka, who stood in seventh after the short program, finished second in the free skate and third overall (141.35 /217.79). However, the 2022-23 Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Final bronze medalist had issues with many of the jumps. He turned out the frontend of his opening quad toe-triple toe, stepped out of a quad toe and put his foot down on a triple Axel. He touched down with his foot again on a triple Axel-Euler-triple Salchow and triple flip. However, his flying sit spin was graded a level four, and the triple loop and triple Lutz-double Axel was clean.
“I’m very happy! said the 19-year-old from Hyogo. “Today in my performance, I was able to get very tight rotations on all of my jumps until the end. That said, I did make many small and costly mistakes, so that was a little bit disappointing. But I would say that being able to have gotten this result at such a very big competition is very satisfying to me.”
Yoshioka said he didn’t feel too nervous going into the free skate.
“I am happy that I didn’t give up until the end and fought through,” he said. “That’s what I really improved on this season. Next year, I will move up to seniors , but it was a great experience to compete with the best juniors here.”
The Japanese National junior Champion said he doesn’t like the loop jump and that it was very challenging for him him to get a good performance in the short program.
“However, at the junior level, we are required to do the elements that we’re not good at, and so that forces us to work on our weaknesses. So, in that sense, I’d say that it’s a good thing, all in all.”
Yoshioka was not expecting to medal given that he felt his free skate was not as good as others he has done in the past.
“Also knowing that all the skaters in the last group are really great competitors,” he said. “I was pretty down on myself. So when I realized I was going to get a medal, I was really very, very overjoyed!”
Italy’s Nikolaj Memola was off to a good start, landing a triple Axel-Euler-triple Salchow, triple flip and triple loop, but fell on the second triple Axel at the second half of the routine. He appeared tired and and both triple Lutz combination jumps received an edge call. The 2022-23 JGP Final Champion placed fourth in the free skate, and was able to move up two spots to fourth overall (139.72/216.44).
“Today wasn’t my day,” said Memola. “I felt a bit of a heavy chest all day. Despite that, I did Salchow and toe in practice this morning. They weren’t secure enough, so I decided I would not risk it. I am a bit sad because I knew I would have had some opportunities here that I won’t have that easily in seniors. I will keep myself prepared as a substitute for Worlds and World Team Trophy, so I will see what happens, but for now my season is over.”
Wesley Chiu of Canada finished eighth in the free skate (133.32). While he had the fifth highest program component scores in the free skate, small errors in his routine to “Nella Fantasia” were costly. He landed a total of six triple jumps, but doubled and stepped out of a two which received no value. The spins, however, were all graded a level four. He slipped from second to fifth overall (213.88).
“I felt ready,” said Chiu. “It was all nerves! Practices were going well. I am going to work on that. I will maybe do a mix of juniors and seniors again next season. I am working on the quad Lutz in practices, and it’s going well!”
Hyungyeom Kim of South Korea placed sixth overall (213.56). The 16-year-old from Incheon did not compete on the JGP series this year, but debuted on the Challenger series in Bratislava and Espoo. He wants to work on his quad toe during the off season, and his goal is to qualify for the Youth Olympics next year.
“I had hoped to make the top 10 and I made it,” said the national silver medalist. “I am very pleased!
USA’s Lucas Broussard placed fourth in the short, but finished ninth in the free skate and seventh overall (209.47). Despite having good practices, it just didn’t happen for him when it counted.
“It’s part of the sport,” he said. “My season overall, went well. I didn’t event expect to be at Junior Worlds at the beginning, so it went much better than expected!”
Yudong Chen of China rose up six spots to eighth overall (205.12) after finishing fifth in the free skate.
“It was a good end of the season,” said Chen. “I was a bit hesitant going into the second quad, and I overpowered a bit on the flip, but overall it was okay.”
He is currently undecided if he will compete on the junior or senior level next season.