Home Figure Skating News Sota Yamamoto captures first Grand Prix gold in Vancouver

Sota Yamamoto captures first Grand Prix gold in Vancouver

by Paula Slater
Judith Dombrowski

Sota Yamamoto

Japan’s Sota Yamamoto poses with his first Grand Prix gold medal at 2023 Skate Canada.

2023 Skate Canada: Men

Japan’s Sota Yamamoto captured his first Grand Prix gold medal at 2023 Skate Canada on Saturday evening in Vancouver. Teammate Kao Miura rose from fourth place to win the silver, while Matteo Rizzo of Italy rose from eighth to snatch the bronze.

Sota Yamamoto

Yamamoto put out a relatively clean short program to “Chameleon,” placing first with a season’s best of 89.56. The 2022-23 Grand Prix Final silver medalist nailed his opening quad toe-triple toe before slightly underrotating a quad Salchow. The triple Axel was solid but had a bit of a problem on the flying camel spin. However, his other two spins and footwork were graded a level four. He scored a new season’s best of 89.56.

“During my morning practice, my body felt a bit heavy,” said the 23-year-old. “But I had the same situation in a domestic competition and yet I was able to do a good performance. I followed the same routine as I did there, and it worked well for me. My Salchow was a bit tight, and I left some levels on the spins, but I would give myself a passing grade for my first Grand Prix performance of the season.”

The skater let David Wilson, the choreographer, select the music.

“His choice shocked me at first and I wasn’t sure I would be able to perform to this song,” admitted Yamamoto. “It turned out to be a great choice and I really started to like it. David messaged me before the competition. I was happy to show him this new side of my skating and I hope to show him and my fans that I will improve on it during the season.”

Hi free skate to “Exogenesis Symphony, Part 3” by Muse was choreographed by Kenji Miyamoto. The skater landed three quads in this routine but fell on his first triple Axel and stepped out the second one. His final triple Lutz received an edge call, but the spins were all graded a level four and he scored another season’s best (168.86) for third place. With a total score of 258.42, the 2023 World University Games champion maintained first overall.

“I knew this would be an important competition considering the Grand Prix Final,” said Yamamoto. “I came to Skate Canada with the goal of winning. I was nervous before my skate but enjoyed my performance during my skate. After it was over, I thought maybe it was okay, but the combination might not have been enough. It was close, but I’m happy to have this result.”

“I think this result is a very important one towards the next one,” he added. “I still have a lot of things to improve on going towards the Cup of China. During my Junior years I had good results, but then I suffered many injuries. Last season was a happy one for me and I am very happy with the result today!”

Kao Miura

Miura was fourth (80.80) after his short program to “This Place Was a Shelter.” The 2023 World Junior Champion landed a solid quad Salchow-triple toe and triple Axel but doubled his quad toe. He was visibly disappointed.

“Since I came here, I have some concerns about the ice and the quality of the ice,” he said. “It is hard to get a good take off on my Salchow. The ice kind of bounces back to me. My trainings and condition have been good, but this situation makes me a bit anxious, and I don’t know what to really do about it. I have to find a way to still do a good job. It was similar at last year’s Skate Canada. Also, the rink is a bit narrow for my liking. I fear I can’t find a solution in one day!”

The 2023 Four Continents Champion put out an explosive and powerful routine to music from Attack On Titan. He put his foot down on a quad toe and fell on a triple Axel, but landed a very good quad triple Axel-Euler-triple, quad Salchow, quad toe-triple toe, and triple flip. His footwork was graded a level four and the 18-year-old finished first with a new season’s best of 177.09 for first place. His total score was 257.89, less than a point from the top spot on the podium.

“I was able to put together a pretty good performance today and recover from my fourth-place finish after the short program,” said Miura. “I decided to change my layout yesterday. I got a call from my friend Seigo Tauchi after practice. He had spoken to Miki Ando about my problem with the ice, and she had great advice for me. I took that to heart, and I think it paid off. It’s great when friends reach out to me with help. I think it went okay today!”

“A medal was the minimum I wanted to achieve to give myself the chance to qualify for the Final,” he added.

While Miura was satisfied with his second place finishes last season at Skate America and Skate Canada, he is disappointed with himself regarding the content.

“I want to move forward and improve,” he explained. “I will be competing at the Grand Prix in Finland, where I skated already for the Finlandia Trophy. I know the ice there and I hope I can use it to my advantage. I want to win there and secure my spot in the Final.”

The skater said that Shae-Lynn Bourne, who choreographed his free skate, was the one who came up with the music.

“She asked me about what I do in my free time,” he recalled. “I told her I usually lay around on my bed and watch anime. She was like ‘great!’ and suggested this piece.”

Matteo Rizzo

Rizzo had a sub-par short after underrotating his quad toe and quad loop in the short program where he finished eighth (74.99).

Nevertheless, the skater wasn’t extremely upset as he is still recovering from a right leg injury he sustained at the beginning of September.

“For me it was good today,” he said. “I knew what to expect. At Shanghai Trophy I was at about 40%, now I am at 80%, so it’s good for me. It’s still early in the season for me.”

He kept his difficult technical content, saying, “Why go back? I am not fighting for an Olympic gold medal right now. The Axel was good, spins were good, so let’s go from here!”

His costume for “Derniere Danse” was inspired by a French contemporary artist, and the skater said there is no “special theme or story he wants to express with it.”

The 2023 European silver medalist was near solid in his free skate to “Fix You” by Coldplay. He landed a total of two quads, a toe and loop, as well as five triple jumps. The only major error was a step out on the final jump, a triple Axel. Two spins were graded a level four and he scored 171.02 for second place in the free skate. His total score of 246.01 catapulted him into third place overall.

Rizzo was very happy with that skate, pointing out again that he’s only at “80%.” He found the second half of the program to be difficult.

“I tried hard to pull through,” he said. “I heard the crowd cheering me on at the beginning as I guess they were impressed, and at the end, they probably felt like they had to pull me through. Next time I want to be at 85-90 % and hopefully give an even better performance for the audience. Whenever I skate this program, I want to give something to the crowd, and I hope they can connect with it!”

The skater was third at this vent last year and hopes the color will change next season.

You have to believe in something,” said the Italian champion, “so yes, I believed it would be possible for me to make the podium in this competition. In men’s figure skating everything is possible. Fifteen points are just one jumping pass. Always believe in something. I feel similar to yesterday. Today just went a bit better for me. I put a lot of energy into both of my programs.”

Rizzo will is looking forward to sharing ice again in Espoo with Miura.

“In order to qualify for the Final I will have to beat him,” he acknowledged. “It will be a good competition as there are also Jun (Cha) and Kevin (Aymoz). The two weeks to train will probably work in my advantage.”

Kazuki Tomono

Japan’s Kazuki Tomono took third place (81.63) in his short program to “Underground.” The 2022 Four Continents silver medalist stepped out of his opening quad toe and landed on the quarter in the front half of a quad Salchow-double toe. The triple Axel was very good, but the charismatic skater got a bit excited and fell during the steps, which were still graded a level four.

“My skating condition was not at my max today,” admitted the 2023 Nebelhorn Trophy silver medalist. “I didn’t do any jump perfectly and this is why I left a lot of points on the table.”

Unfortunately, the Japanese bronze medalist also made mistakes in his free skate to “Halston” by Stephan Moccio. He turned out the front end of his opening quad toe-double toe, stepped out of a quad toe, and landed the third quad, a Salchow, on the quarter. He also underrotated a triple Axel in combination with a Euler-triple Salchow, but the final triple Axel was good. He finished fourth in the free skate (163.49) and overall (245.12).

I worked a lot on the basics since Nebelhorn Trophy,” Tomono offered. “I am aiming for higher GOE. I want to stay calm and focus on my performance rather than on the result. Overall, my goal is to win of course, but during the performance I don’t want to think about that.”

“I wanted to control the energy I have within me,” the 23-year-old added, “or my feelings, as you might say, so I think I really improved there. What’s left is to land the jumps. I think it would have been better if I was livelier. I was nervous but the score was less than I expected. Of course, there are parts I hoped to do more in, but I will just have to practice on it. I think I did all I can do today. I think it was the result of what I practiced until now.”

His next Grand Prix will be at Cup of China.

Mikhail Shaidorov

Mikhail Shaidorov of Kazakhstan delivered an ambitious short program to music from The Matrix, which featured complex transitions. The 2022 World Junior silver medalist landed on the quarter of his opening quad Lutz, but the triple Axel and quad toe-double toe were clean. He scored a new personal best of 79.18 points for fifth place in his Grand Prix debut.

“I was a little nervous,” said the 19-year-old, who withdrew from Nepela Trophy due to injury earlier this season. “After my injury, I took it a little easier, but after two weeks, I went back into normal shape.”

Shaidorov chose the music to his short together with his team.

“My choreographer said I am looking a bit like young Keanu Reeves and that’s why he suggested it for me,” he offered. “Of course, we watched the famous program by Brian Joubert, but we don’t compare ourselves with him.”

The skater delivered a dramatic free skate to “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff, but once again, slightly underrotated the opening quad Lutz. He also landed the back half of a triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow on the quarter as well as the front end of a triple Axel-double Axel sequence. The triple flip received an edge call, but the quad toe-triple toe was clean. He scored 162.47 for fifth place in this segment, and fifth overall with a new personal best of 241.65.

“I had to reduce my content a bit after my injury at Nepela, but I am overall very happy with my performance here,” said the skater from Almaty.

He said his coach, Alexei Urmanov, had always dreamed one of his students would skate to “Carmina Burana” as it’s one of his favorite pieces.

“Back in the days when he first had the idea, it was still forbidden to have vocals,” noted Shaidorov. “Now I am happy to skate to this piece!”

The skater will now return to train in Almaty before competes at Cup of China.

Rounding out the top 12

Mark Gorodnitsky of Israel climbed his way up to sixth overall (225.35) after finishing 11th in the short program. This was a solo event for him, as well as Canada’s Wesley Chiu and USA’s Liam Kapeikis who finished seventh (221.54) and eighth (220.15), respectively.

South Korea’s Junhwan Cha stood in a second after the short (86.18) after taking a fall on a quad toe. Then he had a disparaging 11th-place free skate (130.43), falling victim to the many mistakes he made. He slipped to ninth overall (216.61) and will compete next in Finland.

This was a solo event for Canada’s Conrad Orzel who placed 10th with 213.12 points. Mihhail Selevko of Estonia placed 11th overall (210.78) and will compete next at NHK Trophy. This was also a solo event for Canada’s Aleksa Rakic (189.38) who made his Grand Prix debut at this event.

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