Home Figure Skating News Shoma Uno captures sixth national title

Shoma Uno captures sixth national title

by Chloé Di Sanzio
Akiko Ichimori

Shoma Uno takes sixth national title

Shoma Uno (middle) took his sixth national title at the 2023-24 Japanese Figure Skating Championships in Nagano on December 23, 2023. Yuma Kagiyama (left) and Sota Yamamoto (right) won the silver and bronze, respectively.

2023-24 Japanese Nationals: Men

Two-time and reigning World Champion Shoma Uno defended his crown and won his sixth title at the 2023-24 Japanese National Championships (第92回全日本フィギュアスケート選手権大会) in Nagano, Japan. The Men’s event proved to be a fierce battle where 2022 Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama came second and Sota Yamamoto claimed the bronze.

Shoma Uno

Placing first in both segments, Uno once again topped Japan’s national field. With a scintillating short program to “I Love You Kung Fu” and “Clair de Lune,” he scored 104.69 points, a ten-point lead going into the free skate. Despite a step out on his opening quad loop in his free skate, he landed all his other jumps. The skater flew to victory with a total score of 298.04 under thunderous applause from the crowd. This year marks Uno’s 13th appearance at the Japanese National Championships in which the 26-year-old now has a collection of 10 medals: six gold and four silver.

“I realize how long I have been competing in the national championships,” said Uno. “It has a history. I have witnessed both the younger generations and the performances of the veterans. Figure skating is a very fast-moving sport where the generations change very quickly. The fact that I have achieved this success under these circumstances makes me very happy. I have experienced many nationals so far, but these were my first nationals where the bar was so high.”

The 2022 Olympic bronze medalist also received the highest program components score of the men in this event. The fluidity of his movements impressed many, as well as his musicality and expressive abilities.

“He is not just a skater, but a complete artist,” commented coach Stéphane Lambiel proudly after his student’s performance. “I am impressed by his completeness as an artist and as a figure skater. I feel almost as if I did not breathe during his skate. His program is one single action and there were so many emotions, we were out of energy. We are just so happy! I think once Shoma knows his target, we will know what to do.”

Having secured his ticket for the 2024 World Championships in Montreal, Uno is now focusing on the future and the competitions to come. And he is not forgetting about the 2023-24 Grand Prix Final champion and American rival Ilia Malinin.

“It is amazing that the level is so high in Japan alone, but the level is high worldwide, like Malinin,” noted Uno. “Of course, I want to work on my jumps, but if I neglect my expression, it will be like last year. That is why I want to work on my expression without any regrets and improve my quadruple jumps at the same time. If I do not do that, it will be difficult to compete against him. Malinin has a much more demanding program, and he skates very confidently, so it is really difficult to defeat him. But with Worlds in mind, I want to try and put on my best performance and push myself to the limit.”

Yuma Kagiyama

After sitting out the entire 2022-23 season due to injury, Kagiyama made an explosive comeback this season and captured silver after placing second and third in the short and free program respectively. This was a great improvement from last year’s eighth-place finish. Under the tutelage of Carolina Kostner as his new coach, he has shown enormous progress in choreography and expressiveness. Despite a fall on his quadruple Salchow in the short program, Kagiyama was able to deliver a solid performance, placing third with 93.94 points.

“I was able to return to Nationals after a year because many people supported me. I want to show a performance that expresses, ‘Look, I am back!'” he exclaimed.

But his free program to “Rain in Your Black Eyes” really enchanted the crowd. The skater highlighted the routine with a very rapid step sequence timed on the music. He triumphally threw his fists in the air as an act of celebration at the end of his performance and could not contain his delight. He finished first in the free skate segment, earning 198.16 points with the second highest program component scores behind Shoma Uno.

Gathering a lot of attention not only for his jumps, but also for his light skating and graceful steps, Kagiyama even received a big 10.00 in presentation from one of the judges. His only erro came when he put a foot down on the backend of a quad toe-Euler-triple Salchow. He placed first in the free skate and second overall (198.16/292.10) and was pleased with both of his performances.

“This competition was at a higher level that I had originally anticipated,” commented the 20-year-old. “I made mistakes and that was disappointing, but on the whole, I am satisfied. Next year, I want to work towards delivering a perfect performance.”

Prioritizing recovery last season, the 2022 Olympic silver medalist worked his way back to the top of the men’s field, just as if he had never left. After a bronze medal at the 2023-24 Grand Prix Final, all he needed was another medal at the national championships to truly secure his spot.

Kagiyama also noted how skilled the Japanese skating field is and considers finishing first in Japan as the most difficult endeavor for every skater.

“It is hard, that is how high the level in Japan is,” he said. “Everyone does their best and puts their heart and soul into it, which is why it is so much fun. You have to put on a perfect performance to be able to keep up. From now on, I want to work on my skills to achieve such a satisfactory result.”

Sota Yamamoto

Sota Yamamoto showed great determination as he delivered a strong short program to “Chameleon.” He opened with a quad toe-triple toe followed by a big quadruple Salchow. He placed second (94.58) in that segment, leaving his disappointed sixth-place outing at the 2023 Cup of China a month ago in the dust.

“At the Cup of China, my performance ended on a very frustrating note,” recounted the 23-year-old. “It took me a while to mentally recover from that. I really try to stay positive, but my condition is not continually rising. One has highs and lows.”

Fortunately, his success continued in the free program. Yamamoto seemed unshakable as he delivered a clean skate to the popular music “Exogenesis: Symphony.” He landed a total of four quads and went on to win the bronze medal after missing out on qualifying for the Grand Prix Final. He earned the highest technical score of the segment in the competition with 107.04 points and received 287.00 points overall. He also received a level four on all of his spins and steps, and all of his jumps received positive grades of execution (GOE). At the end of his program, Yamamoto was warmly applauded by the audience, and he burst into tears as he left the ice.

“This year, I delivered both a good short and free program,” he commented with a smile on his face. “I am really happy! Until now, I had experienced disappointments at previous nationals, but this time I delivered and that makes me very happy. Training and performing in such an environment help me to make progress. From now on, I want to keep working on myself, especially on the quadruple jumps and my expressions.”

“The time before the nationals was very hard for me,” added the skater who was fifth last year. “I had good training days and bad ones. But I was able to make it through and I’m happy to have come here. I enjoyed it a lot today. Different from last year’s “Yesterday,” I focused on my expression and my transitions, but I still need to work on my jumps.”

Kao Miura

Despite missing the podium by just one placement, Kao Miura no longer sees himself as a challenger. He believes his position, compared to two years ago, has shifted. His short program featured a quad Salchow-triple toe, triple Axel and quad toe, but the spin was invalidated and received no points. He finished fourth in this segment with 93.91 points.

“Before going into the sit spin, I did all my preparations,” he reflected. “And I made sure to have a clean line while I crouched, but still, I got no points.”

However, the 2023 World Junior Champion redeemed himself in the free skate and executed all of his spins cleanly. Having picked an emotional music for the short program choreographed by Benoit Richaud, he made sure to show the contrast with his free program music.

Skating to the soundtrack of the well-known anime Attack on Titan, he impressed the audience with his powerful jumping skills and his energetic choreographic sequence. He showed “titanesque” expressions and performed rapid and sharp movements. He received high GOEs on his jumps too, including a quadruple toe-triple toe which earned +3.66. The total element score for this jump was 18.73. He finished fourth in the free skate and overall (186.17/280.08).

“I had many concerns and overcame so many hurdles to make it here, then I became emotional,” said the 18-year-old. “Compared to two years ago, my skating is different and I’m in a different position. Two years ago, I had just rose to the senior class. I was a challenger, and I was so nervous because Mr. Hanyu was there.”

Shun Sato

Shun Sato skated an electrifying short program to Libertango by Astor Piazzolla for fifth place (89.80). He landed a clean quad toe-triple toe, but the quad flip received an edge call. Although he felt he had made some improvements, the 19-year-old did not seem content with his performance due to the small mistake.

“Actually, I felt very confident about my flip, but I made a mistake,” he pointed out. “That’s disappointing. This season wasn’t so good, that’s why I feel that I made some great improvement. I don’t know when I have the next chance to show my short program, but I want to work hard on it.”

In his free skate to The Four Seasons, Sato opened with a beautiful quadruple Lutz that received +3.78 GOEs. He was the only skater to perform this jump at this event. Despite losing balance and stepping out on his first combination, he gave a convincing performance. He was sixth in that segment with a score of 183.24 points, and placed fifth overall (273.05), just shy of last year’s fourth-place finish.

Like Kagiyama, Sato has also decided to work on polishing his expression and performance skills before the start of the season with French skater Guillaume Cizeron in Canada and choreographer Kenji Miyamoto. Feeling both regretful and happy at the same time, he wants to tackle more difficult jumps to be able to compete with the other skaters on the international scene.

“This competition was the most exciting,” said the 2023 Four Continents bronze medalist. “I was able to skate with top athletes and I was very happy about that. Of course, I have some regrets. I’m happy and frustrated, I have very mixed feelings. It’s the first time I experienced such a competition.”

Kazuki Tomono

Kazuki Tomono finished in sixth place overall (271.52) at his seventh national championships where he once again delivered. He showed off brilliant skating skills despite a step out on his quad Salchow in the short program where he finished sixth (86.88).

“My goal was to get more than 85 points,” he commented looking back on his score. “The Salchow was frustrating as I wanted to have at least a flawless short at nationals. But I was able to reach 86 points with the mistakes so that was amazing.”

Skating to “Halston” for his free program, he scored 184.64 points for fifth place. His only error was a hand down on a quad toe, and he ended his program with a standing ovation from the audience.

“The level of this competition is very high. That is why I did not want to reach for a goal that is too high,” the 25-year-old replied when asked about his own expectations.”

The choreographic sequence was the highlight of the program as it completely put the spotlight on Tomono’s speed across the ice and the delicate side of his skating.

“I love that I am capable of performing these kinds of programs,” said the 2022 Four Continents silver medalist.

Although he feels confident in his steps, he noticed that his weakness definitely lies in his jumps. He believes that if he works harder on his jumping passes, he is certain that victory will follow.

Koshiro Shimada placed eleventh (215.97), disappointed with his skate as he could not get the timing of the program right. Tatsuya Tsuboi and Nozomu Yoshioka finished seventh (252.34) and eighth (249.38) respectively. 2023-24 Junior Grand Prix Final gold medalist Rio Nakata ranked seventeenth overall.

The Japanese Skating Federation named Kagiyama, Yamamoto, and Sato to the Four Continents team. Uno, Kagiyama, and Miura were selected for the World team.

Related Info:

Related Articles

Founded in 1999, Golden Skate provides resources for the sport of figure skating worldwide. This includes interviews, features, videos, club listings, a discussion board and more.

You cannot copy content of this page