The assembled media gasped as a spokesman for the Japan Skating Federation (JSF) announced the line-up for the March competition ISU World Figure Skating Championships after the end of the Japanese Championship.
Winning national titles in Osaka, reigning world champions Uno Shoma and Sakamoto Kaori automatically earned selection for the 2023 edition, which will be held at the Saitama Super Arena from March 20-26.
But the remaining two places in men’s and women’s singles were decided by the selection committee on Sunday (December 25).
And the reason for the surprise was the men’s runner-up Shimada Koshiro – who trains with Uno in Switzerland under Stefan Lambiel – was excluded from the team Yamamoto Sota chosen before him.
Uno, who had been overjoyed at winning his fifth Japanese national title less than an hour earlier, appeared displeased during the team’s announcement and soon made it clear that he was displeased without specifically referring to his training partner.
He said: “I’m very happy to be part of the world championship team. This may not be my place to say this but… I have no idea what the selection criteria are and I’m not entirely happy. I will do my best.
“I will say no more. I don’t want to say too much given my emotions.”
Yamamoto finished fifth on Sunday but was second behind Uno in this year’s Grand Prix Final in Turin after two regular season Grand Prix runners-up.
This consistency seemed to earn him a nod to Shimada and JSF’s head of development Takeuchi Yosuke he later stated, “Before the start of the season, we said what our selection criteria were and that we would make a decision after the Nationals, while being fair about the competition throughout the year.”
Given the chance to make his world championship debut, Yamamoto said, “I had a tough time in All-Japans. I hope to do better at the world championships. I want to show the reward for the work I put in.”
Third place Tomono Kazuki he was also selected to team with Shimada, with the consolation of representing Japan on four continents.
Sakamoto and Mihara lead a strong female trio
Winner of the Grand Prix Final Mihara Mai she joins Sakamoto on the women’s team with the winner of Skate Canada Watanabe Rink finishing third despite only finishing 12th in the All-Japans.
He was the third finisher in Osaka Shimada Mao who, at the age of 14, is ineligible for the senior championship.
Sakamoto said, “This will be my second World Championship in Saitama, but the previous experience four years ago was frustrating. I have to prepare both programs well. I won them this year and I want to win again.”
This will be Mihara’s first World Championship appearance since her debut in Helsinki in 2017.
“I was so nervous until my name was called,” she said. “I hope I can do even better than here and drive more confidently.”
Kana Muramoto/ /Takahashi Daisuke they will compete in ice dancing after they held off the four-time defending champion Komatsubara Misato/ /Takeru win his first All-Japan title.
Takahashi, who has competed eight times at the World Championships as a single skater, will appear for the second year in a row with Muramoto.
The 36-year-old is the first man in history to win both singles and ice dancing at the Japanese Championships.
in pairs, Miura Roar/ /Kihara Ryuichi he took the only spot on offer despite not competing that week.
Their arrival in Osaka was delayed for two days because their luggage containing the launch equipment was missing.
Japan squad for the 2023 World Figure Skating Championships:
Male Singles: Uno Shoma, Yamamoto Sota, Tomono Kazuki.
Women’s singles: Sakamoto Kaori, Mihara Mai, Watanabe Rinka.
Couples: Miura Riku/Kihara Ryuichi.
Dancing on Ice: Muramoto Kana/Takahashi Daisuke.