Home Figure Skating News Mao Shimada defends Junior World title

Mao Shimada defends Junior World title

by Paula Slater
International Skating Union
Mao Shimada defends Junior World title

(L-R) Silver medalist Jia Shin (KOR), gold medalist Mao Shimada (JPN) and bronze medalist Rena Uezono (JPN) pose at the medal ceremony at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships on March 01, 2024, in Taipei, Taiwan.

2024 Junior Worlds: Women

Japan’s Mao Shimada moved up from second place to defend her Junior World title on March 1, 2024, in Taipei. Jia Shin of the Republic of Korea took her third silver at this event, while Rena Uezono of Japan pocked the bronze in her debut.

Mao Shimada

Shimada received an edge call on the front end of a triple flip-triple toe, but the rest of her superb short program to “Americano” and “Composition” was solid. The double Axel and triple Lutz were clean, and the defending champion garnered a level four on all three spins and footwork. She placed a close second with 72.60 points.

“I thought I wasn’t very nervous when I came to the venue, but when it was time for the actual performance, I was very nervous,” admitted Shimada. “Despite all that, although it wasn’t my season’s best, I’m very happy that I was able to have a good performance.”

The three-time Japanese junior champion revealed she had practices in two rinks but that the feeling was “slightly” different in one of them.

“The morning practice also felt different, so I was a little worried,” she shared. “But I’m glad that I was able to bring out what I practiced with my jumps. I’m glad that I was able to get a level 4 in my steps. I thought this might be the last time I could skate this short program, so I wanted to enjoy skating it.”

“I was in a good shape today, so going into the free program, I want to stay concentrated and end this competition in a good shape,” Shimada summed up.

The 2023-24 Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Final champion turned out stunning free skate to “Benedictus” which featured six solid triple jumps and a quad toe. She stepped out of the triple Axel, but her two final spins garnered a level four with high GOEs. She finished first in the free skate with a new season’s best of 145.76 and moved up to the top of the podium with a total score of 218.36.

“I was very nervous,” admitted Shimada. “In the actual performance I wasn’t able to land the Axel, but I’m very happy that I was able to land the quad toe in this competition. I’ve been struggling on that since last year.”

When asked about the +2 GOEs on her quad toe, the 15-year-old said: “I had made a mistake on the Axel. I thought if I made another mistake, there would be nothing else to do. I just thought I had to give it my all. I was very happy that I could land it, but after that, I still simultaneously felt that I couldn’t do any more mistakes.”

“If you make a mistake on the first jump, and you still have six more to go, it will be a little tough on you mentally,” she added. “But I thought that I didn’t practice to fail here.”

“This season, I’m really glad that I was able to take part in this big competition,” Shimada summed up. “For me, I was aware that it would be a consecutive win for me, so getting second place in the short program made me feel that I really wanted to win consecutively, and I am very happy I did.”

Jia Shin

Shin earned mostly +3 and +4 grades of execution (GOE) on every element in her high-quality short program to “Fascination.” The two-time World Junior silver medalist landed a solid triple flip-triple toe, double Axel and triple Lutz. All spins and footwork were rewarded a level four and she place first with a new personal best of 73.48 points.

“I am very happy!” said the South Korean champion. “This is the first time I managed to get first place at such an occasion. I rate my performance today at around 80-90% of my capability and give myself a bonus points for my feelings right now.”

“I was a bit more calm than in the past, so I think this is what made the difference today,” she added. “I want to show and approach the free skate as if I will show it to the audience for the very first time!”

Shin put out an effortless and superb free skate to “Not About Angels” and “Portion of Eternity.” All seven triple jumps were rewarded with high GOEs, including a triple Lutz-triple toe. Two spins were graded level four while, but she missed a level on the flying change foot combination spin. She scored a new personal best of 138.95 for second place in the free skate and finished second overall (212.43).

“I overall think it was a pretty good performance and I am satisfied with myself,” said the 15-year-old. “At the end, I messed up my last spin. Then I also felt a little bit sad to let “Not about Angels” go as this was my last time performing it.”

“Now that the competition is over, I will be watching the Ice Dance and Men’s events tomorrow and cheer for them,” added Shin. “I hope to have time to see something of Taiwan.”

Rena Uezono

Uezono opened her short with a solid double Axel, but then took a fall on the triple flip-triple toe. She recovered quickly to land a triple Lutz and earned a level four on all three spins. She found herself in eighth place with 61.96 points.

“I think I was able to reach my goal a little, which was to move the audience,” said the 13-year-old from Nagoya. “Going into the free, I want to do my best so I can do that even more. I think there were parts in my spins where it wasn’t very clean. I want to do my best to spin more beautifully.”

“In the free program, I want to show my charms more compared to the short program, and have people feel moved (by watching it),” she added. “This is a really big competition, so I think that was why it is difficult to focus on myself. But in the free program, I think it will be even more difficult, so I want to focus on myself in the free and skate it while showing my gratefulness to the person who created this program for me.”

The 2023 JGP Solidarity Cup champion put out a superb free skate to “Pray” and Mechanisms.” She landed a total of seven triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-triple toe. All three spins were scored a level four on all elements were rewarded with positive GOEs. She placed third with a new personal best of 132.74, and with a total score of 194.70, moved up five spots to third overall in her first appearance at this event.

“I think I was able to convey the charm, so I’m very happy,” said the national junior bronze medalist. “There were parts where I’m frustrated about because I had some mistakes. I’m thankful to my coaches, and I also think competing here will help me do my best in the future as well. I’m just thankful to everyone and I’m very happy that my coach was happy with my score. I just feel very thankful to them!”

Iida Karhunen

Finland’s Iida Karhunen gave a solid routine to “Le Jazz Hot” which included a triple flip-triple toe, double Axel and triple Lutz. All three spins were scored a level four while the footwork was a level three. She earned a new personal best of 64.64 for fourth place going into the free skate.

“I am so happy with my skate and also the score,” said the two-time national junior champion. “I want to also show my best in the free skate. I think the skate today is the result of my hard work and training. I had a great time at the Youth Olympics; it was a very different and fun experience.”

The 15-year-old put out a strong program, landing a total of seven clean triple jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe. Her free skate to “Bohemian Rapsody” also featured two level-four spins and she placed fourth with a new personal best of 121.68. She finished fourth overall (186.32), 22 spots higher than last year.

“I feel great!” said Karhunen. “It’s wonderful that I could get the second spot for Finland. This was my last time performing this program and also my best one. I am super happy! I tried not to think about the fact I skated in the last group and focused on myself. I think I managed that pretty well.”

“I will do a little vacation now and then will be getting two new programs, most likely again by Adam Solya,” she summed up.

Ikura Kushida

Ikura Kushida of Japan placed third in short program with a new personal best score of 66.61. Her mature routine to “Red Violin” included a triple flip-triple toe, double Axel and triple Lutz. Two spins were graded a level four as was her stellar footwork, and all elements received positive GOEs.

“This was my first big competition, so I was more nervous than usual,” said Kushida. “But I’m very happy that I was able to land all my jumps. The very warm cheers and applause from the audience gave me strength.”

“In the six-minute practice, the jumps felt different than usual, so I was a little worried ahead of my performance,” the 16-year-old added. “But after landing the first jump without any mistakes, I was able to land the other jumps as well. I hope to skate my free program with a lot of energy and enjoy my first World Junior championship. I didn’t think I’d get this kind of a score, so I’m very surprised.”

Unfortunately, her free skate to music from The Little Prince was riddled with errors, including two falls. The 2023-24 Japanese junior silver medalist placed 11th (114.36) in this segment. With a total score of 180.97, she slipped off the podium to fifth place overall.

“I was very nervous, and I wasn’t able to move as I usually do,” Kushida explained. “After going into the second half, I was still nervous, but my movements were better compared to the first half. I wanted to enjoy this competition to the most I could, and also wanted to make it a good experience.”

Anastasia Brandenburg

Switzerland’s Anastasia Brandenburg gave a beautiful short program which was highlighted by a triple Lutz, double Axel and triple toe-triple toe. All three spins and the steps were graded a level four in her routine to music from Jane Eyre, and she placed sixth with a new personal best of 62.57.

“I am still so excited and in kind of a shock that it went so well. I am so happy!” said the 14-year-old. “It’s all thanks to my coaches and family. Thank you! I was so nervous and not sure if I could do it ahead of my program, but then I was calm and did so well during the program. In this program, I portray the story of Jane Eyre. The costume is also in style of that time.”

The national junior silver medalist placed 10th (114.79) in the free skate. She landed five triple jumps but fell on a triple Lutz in her routine to “Ne Me Quitte Tu Pas.” With a total score of 177.36, she managed to maintain sixth place overall.

“I feel a bit overwhelmed but very happy,” said Brandenburg. “It was crazy and so much fun to skate in the last group together with Mao and Jia. When I realized after the short program that I would be in the last group, I was a bit in a shock.”

“I am very satisfied with my result,” added the teen from Zurich. “After taking three more days of vacation here in Taipei with my mom, I will then continue to work hard for next season. I want to improve my skating skills and also work on my jumps. I might want to try a quad, but only if I am not scared. One step at a time. Next year, my goal is to win a medal at the JGP. I think this should be possible as I was already fourth once this season.”

Sarina Joos

Sarina Joos of Italy stood in 14th (58.57) after the short program. The national champion bounced back with a fifth-place free skate (117.07) which featured seven triple jumps. The only major error came when she landed the second jump of a double Axel-triple toe on the quarter. With a total score of 174.73, she moved up to seventh place overall.

“I feel amazing!” said Joos. “I want to tell a huge ”thank you’ to everyone who supported me and made it possible for me to be here right now. Every competition is a great experience, and I am very happy and am looking forward to Montreal. It’s great to be here with such a big Italian team, everyone is so supportive, and I love it!”

Rounding out the top 10

USA’s Sherry Zhang moved up from 11th to eighth place overall (174.04). Stefania Gladki of France placed ninth (173.84) followed by Lulu Lin of Canada (173.71).

Twin sisters Yuseong Kim and Yujae Kim from the Republic of Korea finished 15th and 16th, respectively. Both attempted, but fell, on the triple Axel.

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