Home Figure Skating News Shoma Uno grapples with goals

Shoma Uno grapples with goals

by Paula Slater
Getty Images

Shoma Uno

Japan’s Shoma Uno took silver at the 2023-24 Grand Prix Final in what was his sixth appearance at this event.

Shoma Uno

Japan’s Shoma Uno, a seasoned senior competitor in figure skating, is currently in his tenth year at this level. Having experienced success this season by securing second place at both his Grand Prix events and the Grand Prix Final, the two-time Olympic medalist has been on a commendable run.

However, amidst these achievements, Uno has been wrestling with uncertainty concerning his present goals. While he receives substantial support from his coach, manager, and trainer during competitions, it’s his coach with whom he maintains the closest and most significant bond.

“I don’t know what Stéphane (Lambiel) wants for me from now on, whether it is steps or expression of skating,” said the skater, who will turn 26 this week. “But whatever it is, I want to practice in a way that answers to it. It’s not for the sake of me getting better, but rather to make Stéphane satisfied, or make him happy. I want to be a student who can become a kind of skater who he wishes me to be.”

Enthusiasm for skating

Uno admitted that his enthusiasm for skating doesn’t match that of most others as he’s been involved in it as a sport since childhood. However, it’s intrinsic to his personality that once he commits to something, he approaches it with a high level of seriousness and dedication.

“That’s why, although I do respect Stéphane’s skating, I really like his personality,” he said. “In the case of figure skating coaches, this was the same as Coach Mihoko as well. Rather than it being all about business, I want to feel the love. To be able to feel the kindness they have for their students. I am pulled in by that.”

“Also, I think Stéphane and I are quite alike in terms of personality, or more like he’s the type of person I really like,” Uno added. “Instead of just saying nice things, though he says what he wants to, he really cares. I’m happy to be one of the things that he cares about. I’ve been really saved by him so many times, so I also want to be a good presence for Stéphane as well.”

It’s difficult to ascertain whether or not Uno truly finds contentment and joy in his own skating. His dedication and seriousness suggest a commitment to the sport, but his personal feelings about finding happiness within it aren’t clearly articulated.

“To be honest, it’s not often that I appear to enjoy skating,” he said. “How to say this, I don’t want to misspeak, but like, it’s me who doesn’t do any warmups, I only do practices. Those around me also acknowledge the approach I have towards this sport called skating. But even if they wouldn’t acknowledge, I know that I’m not wrong. And I think that’s how I am where I am now, and how I encountered the people around me.”

Uno expressed that he typically doesn’t experience frustration when he doesn’t perform well.

“But I was sad at NHK, but I don’t think that was ‘sad,'” he said. “Even if I’m second or third place, I don’t feel frustrated. Same as this time. Malinin was amazing. But after skating like this, I just feel happy that I’ve been able to meet the people close to me.”

Identifying Goals

More to the point, Uno was struggling last season to identify a goal that would genuinely satisfy him. To achieve this, he recognized the necessity of finding internal motivation within himself.

“I was in a period that lasted longer than a year where I searched a lot for it, and how to spend my time in figure skating,” he offered. “It was the people around me who gave me high motivation. That’s Stéphane, and the people who support me. But also, a big thanks to my friends who are also like rivals as well. It was difficult to find the motivation from within myself.”

Uno consistently found himself in the shadow of Yuzuru Hanyu before the two-time Olympic Champion retired. Subsequently, the emergence of USA’s Nathan Chen, renowned for his extensive array of quad jumps, posed another challenge. Following Chen, there was the rise of Ilia Malinin, further intensifying the competitive landscape in figure skating. He now questions whether he can make figure skating interesting moving forward.

“I might barely be able to make it this year,” he said. “But next year, or the year after that, putting aside the fact whether I’ll be skating or not, I’m not saying I won’t. There’s no doubt that Malinin will dominate the field. Even in terms of rules, the thing called PCS (Program Component Scores), the difference between me and Malinin is about 4-5 points. You can change that many points by just one mistake in jumps.”

“He’s made so much progress,” Uno continued. “I don’t think there will be anyone who can match him in jumping skills for decades. Maybe not even that much. I was under the impression that if someone can jump it, other people will also join in jumping in the figure skating world. But it really is something, as you’d expect. That jump (quad Axel), it’s a bit too extreme.”

Pushing the boundaries

Uno, a four-time World medalist, highlights that for those who don’t enjoy jumping, there’s still a place where they can showcase their talents and shine: ice shows.

“When doing sports, regardless of how we feel, since we are competing within the rules, I believe it’s a given that we have to do our best with jumps,” he pointed out. “I think it’s tough for the young people from (coming into the sport). If it goes on like this, I feel like it might get to a level where Malinin is the sole lead. But for me, if my coach tells me that he wants me to do my best in expression, that he wants to see me give 100% in both jumps and expression, I will want to work hard for it.”

Reflecting on the period when Nathan Chen was actively competing, Uno acknowledged that the 2022 Olympic champion possessed a comprehensive skill set and seemed to excel in various aspects of figure skating.

“He had the expression, spins and jumps,” said Uno. “So, no matter what the rule was, it was a given that he’d be in the lead. In the case of Malinin as well, if the rules continue to be like this, I think he’ll definitely be in the lead. I do feel that the score for the spins and steps are too low compared to the score of the quads. But I think we’ll just do our best where we can.”

In general, Uno holds a high regard for skaters like Chen and Malinin, acknowledging their role in consistently pushing the boundaries of the sport and contributing to its advancement.

“It’s the type of thing that feels more rewarding for me,” he said. “I think Nathan is amazing that he was able to continue for four years in the lead. I think he’s amazing, because he could continue the same way, so it makes me wonder what kind of motivation he had. I wasn’t able to be like that. I don’t know how Malinin will push the skating from now on, but I also don’t plan to be in a position where I’m chasing him. I hope to push together with him. And also, I would like to battle Malinin this year at least once. I can’t win (against him) next year, so I’ll do my best this year. It’s my last chance.”

Uno is set to partake in his 12th nationals next week at the 92nd All Japan Figure Skating Championships in Nagano, Japan. As of now, his participation in the Four Continents competition remains uncertain. However, it’s anticipated that the skilled skater, who is currently ranked second in the world, will grace the ice at the 2024 World Figure Skating Championships, barring any unforeseen injuries.

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