Home Figure Skating News Rio Nakata rebounds to capture gold at Junior Grand Prix Final

Rio Nakata rebounds to capture gold at Junior Grand Prix Final

by Paula Slater
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Rio Nakata

Japan’s Rio Nakata poses with his flag after winning the Men’s title at the 2023 Junior Grand Prix Final in Beijing, China.

2023-24 Junior Grand Prix Final: Men

Rio Nakata of Japan rebounded after a fourth-place short to capture the gold at the 2023-24 Junior Grand Prix Final on Saturday in Beijing, China. Hyungyeom Kim of the Republic of Korea slipped to second to pocket the silver, while Adam Hagara of Slovakia took the bronze—the first medal of any color for his country at this event.

Rio Nakata

Nakata fell on his opening triple Axel in his short program to “God Particle” and “160 Bpm.” He quickly recovered to land a triple flip-triple toe, but later received an edge call on a triple Lutz. Two spins garnered a level four and the 2023 JGP Bangkok champion placed fourth with 67.71 points.

“I wanted to show the world what I can do,” said the 15-year-old. “It’s my biggest competition yet so far and that made me really nervous. Being the youngest competitor here I feel like I am so small, and the others are so big. So, I have to compensate it by skating big!”

The 2023 JGP Istanbul silver medalist was on fire in his free skate to music from the Spectre soundtrack. He opened with a very good quad toe and followed up with a triple Axel-triple toe. In all, the skater landed a total of seven triple jumps. Two spins were graded a level four, and he earned many positive grades of execution (GOE), particularly on the first two jumping passes. He placed first in the free skate with a new personal best of 160.06 and moved up to first overall with 227.77 points.

“I am so happy! Today is my mom’s birthday and I think I gave her a nice present today,” said Nakata.

The skater said that he always calms down after the quad.

“The quad wasn’t really good (in the practices), but the rest of the jumps were quite good,” he said. “So I was looking forward to doing the quad in the actual performance. I expected around 153 points, but my jumps and such were good, so I think that’s how I got (a good score).”

The result is a great achievement, but there are many other competitions ahead this season,” Nakata pointed out. “I need to work harder; I cannot relax now.”

Hyungyeom Kim

Kim opened his dynamic short program to “Music” with a triple Axel and later landed a triple Lutz. The 2023 JGP Budapest champion received an edge call on the front end of a triple flip-triple toe in which the latter jump was landed on the quarter. The level four spins and footwork were good, and he placed first with a new personal best of 71.01.

“I am very satisfied and happy about my skate today,” said the national silver medalist. “I put 100% into my performance today. I was not actually nervous today. I try to see this as a normal competition in order to not feel extra nerves.”

The 2023 JGP Cup of Austria fell on a quad toe at the beginning of his free skate to Requiem for a Dream, but quickly recovered to land a triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe. He received an edge call on a triple flip and landed the back end of a triple Lutz-triple toe on the quarter, but was otherwise clean, landing two more triple jumps. All spins were awarded a level four and he placed second in the free skate and overall (146.60/223.61).

“I felt a little bit nervous and am not that satisfied with my performance,” said the 17-year-old. “Nevertheless, I am happy with the result.”

Adam Hagara

Harga delivered a relatively clean short program to “Another Love.” He landed a good triple flip-triple toe and triple Lutz but turned out the landing of a triple Axel. Two spins were rewarded a level four while the footwork was graded a level three, and he placed third with 71.43 points.

“It’s a great feeling to be the first skater from Slovakia at the JGP Final,” said the 17-year-old. “It’s also a big responsibility. Actually, my lace broke during the warmup. It made everyone quite nervous for a moment, but we managed to fix it okay.”

Hagara revealed that he spent some time training in Belgium with Jorik Hendrickx prior to this event to “polish parts of the choreo.”

The JGP Cup of Austria champion only made one major mistake in his free skate when he stepped out of a triple Axel. He went on to land a total of six clean triple jumps while displaying level-four spins throughout and was awarded 141.83 for third place. He finished third overall (213.26), becoming the first skater to medal from Slovakia at a Junior Grand Prix Final.

“This was my dream!” said the two-time national champion. “To win a medal here. I am just so, so happy! I can’t wait to get home now and see everyone.”

“Regarding the skate, I think apart from the second Axel, it was pretty good,” said Hagara. “I knew from the reaction of the crowd that Rio had an amazing skate before me, but it didn’t really bother me. I focused on myself.”

Next week he will skate at the Four Nationals and hopes to get nominated for Europeans and Worlds.

“My next dream is to make the top 10 at Europeans!” he said.

Juheon Lim

Juheon Lim of the Republic of Korea underrotated his opening triple Axel and received an edge call on the front end of a triple flip-triple toe in the short program. However, the rest of his routine to “Your Song” was solid. He landed a good triple Lutz and displayed level-four spins and footwork throughout. The 2023 JGP Solidarity Cup champion placed second with 73.72 points going into the free skate.

“I wanted to skate like in practice, but I realized the nerves when I took the starting pose,” said the 2023 Denis Ten Memorial champion. “I didn’t expect I would make it to the Final this season. I just wanted to show my best during the JGP.”

Lim was especially impressed with Yuma Kagiyama while watching him practice.

“I realized that this is the skater I want to copy and become like,” he said.

Lim had a rough start in his free skate to Game of Thrones, stepping out of both triple Axels. He landed a triple Lutz-double Axel-double Axel sequence, but then received an edge call on the front end of a triple flip-triple toe. The latter jump was landed on the quarter, but he went on to land a triple Lutz-double toe, triple loop and triple Salchow. The 2023 JGP Osaka silver medalist earned a level four on all three spins and placed fourth with 136.27 points. With a total score of 209.99, he slipped to fourth overall.

“I feel like I will need to practice more and work harder for the Four Continents in order to catch up to other awesome skaters,” said the 18-year-old. “I also want to work on how I need to think before I go on the ice. I tried to do the same as at the previous competitions, but it didn’t work for me. I think I need more experience.”

Francois Pitot

Francois Pitot of France took a fall on his opening triple Axel in his short program to “Separate Ways” and “Stranger Things.” He recovered to land a good triple Lutz, but later received an edge call on the front end of a triple flip-double toe. Two of his spins were graded a level four and he scored 64.87 points for sixth place.

“Sometimes things happen, like today,” said Pitot. “I didn’t feel comfortable on the triple Axel; my air position was not good. I will do my best and fight in the free.”

The national bronze medalist added that it was “great” to be an event with fellow countrymen Kevin Aymoz and Adam Siao Him Fa.

“It’s motivating!” he said. “On Adam I admire most his confidence with which he approaches his quads,” said Pitot. “I want to learn that from him. Kevin also has amazing jumps and outstanding artistry.”

Pitot also mentioned that he had been ill last week and as a result, the preparation for this event wasn’t ideal.

The 2023 JGP Osaka champion turned out his opening triple Axel but then landed a triple Axel-double toe. He also stepped out of a triple flip, putting a hand down and turned out a triple Salchow. However, he picked it up in the second half of the program, landing a triple Lutz-double toe and triple Lutz-double Axel-double Axel sequence. He scored 132.44 for fifth place for his routine to “Cry Me a River,” placing fifth overall (197.31).

“I couldn’t skate up to my full potential, but I enjoyed the moment of being here,” said Pitot. “I have to skate with more confidence.”

Daniel Martynov

USA’s Daniel Martynov popped his opening Axel in his short program to “Dawn of Faith.” He later received an edge call on the front end of a triple flip-triple toe, but the triple Lutz was clean. The JGP Armenian Cup champion received a level four on all spins and footwork and placed fifth with 66.23 points.

“I was excited going into the JGP Final,” said the 17-year-old. “My preparation was really good. I did what I have to do today. I would rate my nervousness-level five out of 10. I just wasn’t on my game today.”

The 2023 JGP Osaka bronze medalist fell on an attempted quad toe in his free skate to “Iron.” He continued to struggle, making small errors and falling on a triple Lutz and triple flip-triple toe. He placed sixth overall (117.24/183.47).

“This was the first time I put the quad into competition. I am happy I went for it. I landed a really good one in the official practice, so I thought I don’t want to go safe for once but risk it. I wish I would have landed it a little better but apart from that I am not too upset about my skate today.”

He hopes to land a clean quad at Senior Nationals 🇺🇸 this season and then hopes for a clean skate at Junior Worlds.

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