On a day when no one could put it all together, there was one man head and shoulders above the herd.
Uno Shoma showed why the world is present and Grand Prix Final champion when he dominated the men’s short program at Japanese Figure Skating Championships on Friday (December 23) with as much as 100.45 points.
Though unofficial, it beat Uno’s 99.99, which was achieved at the Grand Prix Final two weeks ago in Turin, Italy, which is the highest score in the world this season.
The two-time Olympic medalist was almost 13 points ahead of an unexpected second place Shimada Koshirohis stablemate under the trainer Stefan Lambiel.
He was sitting in third place Yamamoto Sotarunner-up to Uno in the Grand Prix Final, at 86.89. Beijing 2022 and a silver medalist at the world championships Kagiyama Yuma he was a distant sixth (81.39) in his first contest in nine months.
While the competition often cringed and gasped during their performances in front of the crowd in Osaka, Uno felt as comfortable as a walk in the park.
“I may not have done the best short program I can do, but this is the best I can do today,” he said.
“I did it well and slowly. As I said, I probably could have had a more extensive program, but I can confidently say that for today, this is the absolute best I could do.
“I didn’t achieve anything new, but just like in the Grand Prix final, I drove as well as I could, which is what my body currently allows me to do.”
Uno downgraded the quad-toeloop-triple toeloop combination to a quad-double and didn’t end the program with a seated rotation he liked, but he wasn’t going to lose sleep over it.
Call it class, call it presence. At the moment and with certainty Hanyu Yuzuru no longer competing, Uno seems to be in a league of his own.
“I no longer feel the need to push a quadruple three, be it short or free,” said Uno, who turned 25 last week. “First I worry about landing the jump before I start the next one.
“I don’t know if I’m perfecting my craft, but what counts for sure is many years of experience. I experienced a lot, which allowed me not to exaggerate with how I manage in each competition.
“Recently, I realized that you can learn a lot from failures. I’m not stressed about it anymore.
“A few years ago I didn’t think I had a big future ahead of me, but now I don’t have a set schedule. I don’t think about when to quit.”
In return, Kagiyama disappoints
Kagiyama started last out of 30, in his first skate since the world championships in March. The day before he said he was about “75, 80 percent” and he wasn’t lying.
The 19-year-old botched a triple flip-triple loop combination and drew a triple Axel, showing he still has some work to do in terms of coming back from a left ankle injury that forced him to miss the entire Grand Prix season.
Kagiyama made no excuses for the show and will try to get through his free show on Sunday to start with.
“First of all, I’m glad I survived 2 minutes and 50 seconds in one piece,” he said. “It was my first competition in nine months. Seeing the banners in the stands, hearing the cheers, I was very happy.
“I know what I did wrong. I know what to fix. It seemed to me that many people were praying for me. Hopefully next time I can calm them down a bit more than today.”
2022 Japan National Figure Skating Championship Schedule (local time JST, UTC+9):
Saturday December 24
Dancing on ice (free dance) – 14:19
Women’s free program – 17:00
Sunday December 25
Free program for couples – 15:30
Men’s free program – 17:00