From January 22 – 28, this year’s Four Continents Championships took place in Taipei, Taiwan. Japan sent three male skaters, three female skaters, two teams of pairs skaters, and three ice dance teams to this event. In the end, the Japanese team swept the podium in the women’s competition, and received a medal in the men’s competition and the ice dancing competition.
Kaori Sakamoto won the women’s portion of the Four Continents Championships with a total score of 214.21. This score, along with her short program and free skate scores, are new personal bests for Kaori. Her short program was given a score of 71.34, placing her in second place. “I am really happy to surpass 70 points in international competition for the first time,” Kaori later said. “The step sequence was a level three, which still can be improved. But other than that I was very satisfied with the performance.”
Kaori’s free skate was the highest ranked of the event, with a score of 142.87. After the free skate, she said, “Last March here in the Junior Worlds, I skated perfect short and free programs. It’s a good venue for me, and I came in with that in mind.” She added, “For the Olympics, I want to train in order to be perfect in both the short and free programs and deliver a performance I’m satisfied with.”
Mai Mihara placed second with a total score of 140.73. Her short program was given a score of 69.84, placing her in third. Content with her program, she said, “I am very happy to have done my best short program this season; I don’t worry about the result today. Before the competition, I set a goal for myself to concentrate and to focus on my own performance. In today’s performance, I was able to stay calm and very focused from the beginning until the end, so I was happy with how I did.”
Mai’s free skate received a score of 140.73, the second best of the event. She later said, “To finish second is quite a thrill for me. I under-rotated a jump and lost some points, but to do this, considering how little practice time I’ve been able to get in, is a tremendous confidence boost.”
Satoko Miyahara finished in third place with a total score of 207.02 Her short program received a score of 71.74, the highest of the event. After the short program, she said, “I could have done more today and I have a lot of regrets.” She continued, “The step sequence and the spins were quite good, though. I think I need more confidence, but it was a good performance. I want to do my best in the free program, especially in the jumps. This will be the last performance before the Olympics so I want to be satisfied with it.”
Satoko’s free skate was ranked third with a score of 135.28. She explained that she had come to Taipei in a funk and wasn’t able to overcome it. “Since I came here, I’ve lacked confidence and that was the biggest cause of my mistakes.”
Shoma Uno placed second with a total score of 297.97, 2.98 points behind China’s Jin Boyang. His short program received a score of 100.49, putting him in first, and 0.32 points ahead of Boyang’s second place. Shoma’s free skate was given a score of 197.45, putting him second place, and 3.33 points behind Boyang. Shoma under-rotated his first two jumps, a quad loop and a quad flip. After the free skate, Shoma said, “I entered this more amped up than I was for the short program. My results reflect my lack of real ability. I don’t have any sense of accomplishment.” He added, “I’m relieved that I could regroup in the second half. This is only the start for me.”
The ice dancing team of Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed finished in third place with a total score of 163.86, 1.10 points behind Canada’s Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus. Kana & Chris’ total, short dance, and free dance scores are new personal bests. Their short dance was given a score of 65.27, putting them in second, 3.81 points behind Americans Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker. Their free dance was ranked third, with a score of 98.59, putting them 1.26 beind Carolane and Shane. After making the podium for the first time ever at this event, Kana said she had gained some confidence after having the best skates of their career so far. Looking towards next month’s Olympics, she said, “I’d like to have a performance that can bring a medal home for Japan.”
Keiji Tanaka finished in fourth place with a total score of 260.31, while Takahito Mura finished in 12th with a total score of 225.41.
The pair of Miu Suzaki & Ryuichi Kihara finished in eighth place with a total score of 157.27. The pair of Riku Miura & Shoya Ichihashi finished in tenth, last, place with a total score of 126.19.
The ice dancing team of Misato Komatsubara & Timothy Koleto finished in tenth place with a total score of 138.18. The ice dancing team of Rikako Fukase & Aru Tateno finished in 11th place with a total score of 124.02.
Up next is the Winter Olympics, which take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea on February 9 – 23. Japan’s team is composed of Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno, Keiji Tanaka, Satoko Miyahara, Kaori Sakamoto, Miu Suzaki & Ryuichi Kihara, and Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed.