Home Figure Skating News Yuma Kagiyama wins first Four Continents title

Yuma Kagiyama wins first Four Continents title

by Paula Slater
Akiko Ichimori

Yuma Kagiyama wins first Four Continents title

(L-R) Shun Sato (JPN), Yuma Kagiyama (JPN) and Junhwan Cha (KOR) pose with their medals at the 2024 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

2024 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships: Men

Yuma Kagiyama of Japan won his first Four Continents title in Shanghai on Saturday. And he did it with 32.99 points to spare. Teammate Shun Sato upgraded his bronze from last year to a silver, while Junhwan Cha of South Korea took the bronze.

Yuma Kagiyama

Kagiyama opened his dynamic short program with a quad Salchow that earned 4.16 grades of execution (GOE). His routine to “Believer” also featured a quad toe-triple toe and triple Axel. The level-four spins and footwork also garnered many positive GOES and the 2022 Olympic silver medalist finished first with a new season’s best of 106.82 heading into the free skate.

When the scores were announced, the two-time world silver medalist said he had the sudden realization that he hadn’t reached Malinin yet in terms of scores.

“I watched the video just now, and I realized I still have potential to grow,” he said. “I felt that if everything is really perfect, then I would have a chance to win. I aimed to win here from the start.”

“From the first movement, I gave it my all,” Kagiyama said of his short program. “Since the time I started practicing in Japan, my father told me to practice with winning in mind. So that didn’t turn into pressure for me. This is my first Four Continents as a senior, so, I think I was able to skate with ease.”

The 20-year-old said that he felt his quad toe and triple Axel were better in practice.

“Regarding my spin, there are parts where I can show my skills even better,” he lamented. “So, I thought I can get it higher about two to three more points in the future. Of course, in this competition, I haven’t got a title yet. I was of course conscious about winning for that. And for the world championship that’s coming up, as well as the competitions in the future. I wanted to appeal, or rather, I wanted to show how far I can go. So today I did a performance giving my all, and I am relieved for now.”

Kagiyama earned a new season’s best (200.76) for his free skate to “Rain, in Your Black Eyes,” placing first in this segment. The two-time world silver medalist opened with a superb quad Salchow (+4.43 GOE), but then stepped out of a quad flip, putting his hand down. The only other glitch was an edge call on a triple Lutz later in the program. He also produced a quad toe-Euler-triple Salchow, along with two solid triple Axels, and all spins and footwork were graded a level four. With a total score of 307.58, he easily won the competition.

“I am very happy with my performance today,” said the 2023-24 Grand Prix bronze medalist. “I didn’t expect to score 200; I was expecting a score around 190-198, so I was pleasantly surprised. And I am happy to have achieved a total score of more than 300.”

Kagiyama missed most of the season last year due to injuries.

“I focused on improving my technique and took time to reflect on my performance,” he offered. “I analyzed what areas need improvement and how I can enhance my jumps. Although I participated in the Four Continents, World Championships, and national championships, missing out on events last year has left me with less experience compared to other skaters. Moving forward, I aim to compete in more events to bridge this experience gap.”

“At this Four Continents, I successfully executed three different quadruple jumps,” he said. “This performance has motivated me to aim for even higher scores and technical proficiency in the upcoming seasons. However, whether I can win the championship next time with a score of 300 remains to be seen. I understand the importance of continuously improving my technical skills.”

Shun Sato

Sato took a new personal best score of 99.20 for second place after his engaging short to “Libertango.” Last year’s bronze medalist landed a solid quad toe-triple toe, quad Lutz and triple Axel. All spins were graded a level four as well his footwork which received high GOE.

“I didn’t expect to get this high score, I’m really satisfied,” he said. “Ever since I arrived here, I was thinking various things such as what to do about the Lutz. There were also times where I felt really lost. But I am glad I was able to do what I had planned to do. Without thinking much about it, I just went for the quad Lutz and thought that it’d definitely be better if I landed it at once. And that’s how I did it.”

The skater said he didn’t think much about medaling at this event last season but hopes for a higher ranking this year.

“Today I was nervous, but I didn’t really worry about things like, what if I make a mistake and such,” Sato shared. “I didn’t think about anything, and looking back, I think that was very good. Everyone had good performances.”

Sato has also grown to appreciate his short program over the season.

“At first, I felt like I didn’t understand it but now I’m very into it,” he said. “I’m really glad to be doing this program this season. I think this free program will be my last this season. This short and free program, I really like them, so I want to have fun and hope to do perform well and have everyone enjoy it as well.”

The 2023 Grand Prix Espoo silver medalist landed a solid quad Lutz (+3.45 GOE) in his routine to Four Seasons. He hung on to the landing of both quad toes and later stepped out of a triple loop, but was otherwise solid. He earned a level four on two spins and placed third in the free skate with 175.39 points. With a total score of 274.59, he managed to maintain second place overall.

“In the free skating portion today, I made some minor mistakes,” noted the 19-year-old. “As a result, I’m not entirely satisfied with my performance. However, I was able to execute quad Lutzes in both the short program and the free skate, so I’m pleased with that accomplishment and view it as a positive step forward before the next season.”

Junhwan Cha

The 2023 World silver medalist placed third in the short with a season’s best of 96.30. He reeled off a quad Salchow that earned +3.46 GOEs in his “Masquerade Waltz” routine. He also landed a triple Lutz-triple loop and triple Axel, and all footwork and spins were graded a level four.

“I tried my very best and I think I did well today,” said the 22-year-old. “My first priority was to heal from my injuries, so I didn’t have much time to work on my programs. I kept training the short with two quads after nationals, but I think I need a bit more time to train it. Maybe I can train it for Worlds. I am planning the quad toe in the free skate, but I will only finally decide on that after the practice tomorrow.”

2022 Four Continents champion placed second with a new season’s best of 177.65 with his free skate to music to The Batman. He opened with an excellent quad Salchow before stepping out of a quad toe. He received edge calls on both triple Lutz jumps, one of which he stepped out of, but was otherwise clean. All spins and footwork were rewarded with a level four, and he maintained third place overall (272.95).

“I’m quite pleased with my performance today,” said Cha. “Despite several mistakes and some lack of cleanliness in my jumps and overall skating, I gave it my all. So, I’m content with how I skated today.”

Cha said he poured all his energy into the performance.

“Despite the multiple mistakes I remained focused on myself throughout,” he said. “By the end, I felt exhausted. This is the level of effort I need to give every time, so I’m quite satisfied with it.”

The skater said after nationals he “intensified” his training and put in full effort for two to three weeks. Mainly focusing on incorporating three quads into his routine.

“However, this time, I only managed two quads,” he noted. “I recognize that I need more time for training, and I don’t want to rush and risk exacerbating any injuries. Upon arriving in Shanghai and resuming skating, I discussed with my coach, and we decided to take a step-by-step approach, adjusting the layout after the short program to allow for more training time. That was our decision.”

“I’m uncertain about upcoming competitions at the moment, perhaps one in Korea, but nothing is confirmed,” he added. “With less than two months until worlds, my priority is to fully recover and hopefully have the opportunity to train as extensively as I’d like. I aim to thoroughly enjoy the world championships once again; that’s my goal.”

“While my health is improving, I realize that as much as I rest to recover, I need ample time to train and improve my condition,” Cha summed up. “The season has been challenging for me, but I’m maintaining a positive mindset and focusing on fully recovering above all else.”

Sota Yamamoto

Japan’s Sota Yamamoto gave a brilliant routine to “Chameleon,” taking a season’s best of 94.44 for fourth place. The 2023 Skate Canada champion landed a quad toe-triple toe, quad Salchow and triple Axel. All spins were graded a level four and his first jumping pass earned +2.71 GOE. He had a slight stumble at the end prior to his final pose which caused him to chuckle.

“I think today I was able to bring out a performance which I was supposed to bring out,” said Yamamoto. “I think that was the result of my solid practices. Heading towards the free program, I hope to shift my focus entirely and believe in the work I’ve put into practice and give it my all.”

“For me, each element is something I’ve deeply thought about,” the 24-year-old added. “The truth is, I want to make each of them something I’m comfortable doing. But this was the result of various practices. I was able to perform them properly in the actual competition, so I am happy about that.”

The national bronze medalist fell on his opening quad Salchow before putting a hand down on a quad toe, singling the second jump in a combination. Those were the only major mistakes in his otherwise solid routine to “Exogenesis Symphony.” The skater from Aichi landed a solid quad toe and five clean triple jumps and displayed level-four spins throughout. He finished fourth in the free skate and overall (168.99/263.43).

“I’m feeling frustrated,” said Yamamoto. “This competition turned out to be just as frustrating as before. My overall performance felt a bit rigid, and I wished I could have expressed myself more. It’s disappointing. I aim to reset these emotions and give my all during the off-season.”

Yamamoto said he felt “tense overall, like due to pressure and nerves.”

“My goal is to channel this experience into something beneficial for my future endeavors,” he said. “I intend to leverage the lessons learned from the Four Continents and the regrets from this experience in the upcoming season. The performance today reflected my current capabilities. I’m committed to striving for even better performances in the future.”

Boyang Jin

Boyang Jin of China gave a very good short to “Vienna” which featured a quad toe, triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe. All spins were awarded a level four and he placed fifth with 89.41 points.

“It’s hard to say, maybe I will give my performance an eight,” said Jin. “My step sequence rating today is only three. I aim higher for this. Overall, I did well so I’m satisfied. But I would like to have more GOE marks. Being capable of performing difficult tricks means that I’m in a good state. But for me at the moment, I would rather pursue the completeness of the program more.”

The two-time World bronze medalist landed a solid quad Lutz (+3.61 GOE) in his free skate to “This” and “Precious Lost Love.” He followed up with a quad toe, but then fell on a triple Axel-triple Salchow. That was the only mistake in an otherwise solid routine. He went on to land a triple Axel, quad toe-double toe, and two more triple jumps. Two spins and the footwork were graded a level four, and he scored a season’s best of 167.48 for fifth place. He maintained fifth overall with a total score of 256.89.

“In my performance, there were some mistakes in easier jumps,” noted the 26-year-old from Harbin. “But overall, it was a good showing. I’m satisfied with my performance. Tracy Wilson pointed out that the ability and training were there; it’s just that I rushed, leading to the mistakes today.”

Mikhail Shaidorov

Mikhail Shaidorov of Kazakhstan fell on an attempted quad Lutz in the short, but quickly recovered to land a triple Axel. He also produced a quad toe-triple toe in the second half. All spins were graded a level four and he finished seventh with 81.76 points for his routine to “Clubbed to Death” from The Matrix,

“I was really surprised with that fall on the Lutz, and it woke me up a bit,” said the 19-year-old. “I landed it just fine at all practices, so I really didn’t expect the fall. Other than that, I am happy with the second half. I have great memories from Chongqing where I medaled so I was coming here very excited. The plan was to skate clean, but it didn’t happen, so now I hope to skate a clean free program.”

The 2023 Cup of China bronze medalist began his dramatic “Carmina Burana” with a solid quad Lutz and hung onto the landing of a quad flip and quad toe. He received an edge call on a triple flip, but also landed a quad toe-Euler-triple Salchow. He underrotated the first jump in a triple Axel-double Axel sequence, but two spins were graded a level four. He placed sixth in the free skate and overall (163.04/244.80).

“I am seldom satisfied with my performances,” said Shaidorov. “Today was somewhat acceptable, but far from perfect. Making a mistake on the quad toe was highly unusual, and I didn’t anticipate it at all.”

The skater expressed great joy in having a large team accompany him here, including coaches, teammates, and team leaders, all of whom “are supportive and kind.”

Before the worlds, he will participate in an event in the Netherlands.

Wesley Chiu

Canada’s Wesley Chiu landed a quad toe-triple toe, triple Axel and triple Lutz in his short to music from Romeo and Juliet. The newly crowned national champion earned a level four for all spins and footwork and secured a new personal best of 83.50 points for sixth place.

“I felt really good out there!” said Chiu. “It was a goal of mine to put out consistent short programs. I think that’s kind of required in the men’s field. Having skated at NHK helped me a lot skating in a big arena like this. I think I learned from this experience. Having won nationals was a confidence booster. As it was not too long ago, I was able to carry the momentum into this competition. It was really exciting to win nationals.”

Chiu’s free skate to music from Kill Bill featured a quad toe-double toe and seven triple jumps. He landed a solo quad toe, but it was slightly underrotated. A triple flip (in combination with a triple toe) received an edge call. The 18-year-old from British Columbia earned a season’s best of 156.88 for seventh place in the free skate. He placed seventh overall (240.38).

“When the music started playing and it was my turn to skate, I felt my heart rate decrease, and I started to feel more like myself,” said Chiu. “Admittedly, my legs were a bit like jelly. However, I managed to tap into my training and execute everything just as I’ve been practicing all week.”

This was Chiu’s first ISU Championship event. The skater said he learned to skate under pressure, particularly in such high-stakes situations.

“It’s something you can’t truly replicate in training,” he pointed out. “You have to learn and adapt through experience to become comfortable in these environments.”

“Just being in the warm-up today, and practicing with the last group yesterday, has been a surreal experience,” Chiu summed up. “It was truly eye-opening to skate alongside such incredible athletes. It’s rare to share the ice with five of them during a single warm-up. Moreover, being in that warm-up atmosphere, hearing the crowd electrify for skaters like Boyang and others, I’m relieved I wasn’t skating after him.”

Rounding out the top 10

USA’s Andrew Torgashev placed eighth overall (237.20) followed by Yudong Chen of China (218.66) and Canada’s Roman Sadovsky (217.83).

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