From December 20 – 24, this year’s Japan Figure Skating Championships took place in Tokyo. It was a repeat of last year, with Shoma Uno and Satoko Miyahara winning their portion of the event. Besides deciding the national champions, this competition also determined who Japan will send to the Four Continents Championships, the Winter Olympics, and the World Championships.
Shoma won the national title for the second year in a row with a total score of 283.30. His short program was the best of the event, receiving a score of 96.83. Shoma did not complete the second part of his quad toe / triple toe combination. He did however receive level-fours for his spins and step sequence. “The Japan Nationals are always tough for me,” Shoma said after his skate. “I thought I was focused, but I could not concentrate and perform like I wanted to. I made the same mistake as last year.” He was confused about the error in his quad toe / triple toe combination, saying “Usually if I overturn on the quad toe, I can still add on a triple toe. I do it often in practice, but could not tonight.”
Shoma’s free skate also came out on top, with a score of 186.47. Of his planned four quads, Shoma was able to do two of the three he attempted, falling on his quad flip. He added five triple jumps for the win. Shoma felt that he had let people down by singling the last jump in his triple axel / single loop / triple flip combination, saying, “I have not been able to respond to everybody’s expectations. There were places tonight where I struggled and lost my rhythm.” He continued, “I always try to focus on what I do, but unfortunately I could not do it tonight. In several competitions recently I have not been able to do the expected program and I feel bad about this.” Looking towards the Olympics, he said, “I need to practice over and over to meet my expectations.”
Keiji Tanaka placed second for the second consecutive year, with a total score of 267.15. He had the second best short program, receiving a score of 91.34. Keiji mentioned his training regimen as the key to his short program success. “Before the competition I have been training very intensively, to the point of exhaustion,” he said. “Sometimes I felt like I could not walk at the end. But the reason I did it was so that I would feel the event was easier. I felt very relaxed tonight.”
Keiji’s free skate was also ranked second, receiving a score of 175.81. He had multiple issues with his combinations during this program. He didn’t do all the jumps in two combinations and stepped out on the second part of another combination. Afterwards, he said, “I was very nervous tonight, but I wanted to focus. I did what I could do. I think I’m just going to take a break now.”
Takahiro Mura placed third for the third year in a row, with a total score of 258.41. His short program and free skate were also ranked third, with scores of 85.53 and 172.88, respectively. He was highly emotional after his free skate, saying, “Honestly speaking, I feel like I put out what I could do. I felt good emotionally. Looking at the scores I could have done more.” He added, “My Grand Prix series this season was not good, so I am grateful to the fans who have stuck by me. I was able to do my own skating tonight.”
Satoko won her fourth consecutive national title with a total score of 220.39. Her short program was ranked second, with a score of 73.23, 0.36 points behind Kaori Sakamoto. Satoko under-rotated the second part of her opening triple lutz / triple toe loop combination. Admitting that she felt intense pressure, she said, “This was the most nervous I have ever been at the All-Japans. I usually get nervous right before skating, but this has been going on for a while.” She persevered though, adding, “I calmed down when I started skating and gave it my best. There weren’t many mistakes tonight. I’m going all out in the free skate.”
And Satoko did go all out, with top free skate of the event, with a score of 147.16. The only mistake in her program was an under-rotation of the first part of her triple lutz / triple toe combination. She received level-fours for her spins and step sequence. “I’ve done my best until now,” Satoko said after the free skate. “I’ve worked hard toward this competition. I’m happy I could do it when I had to.” She continued, “I’m looking forward to the Olympics. I will probably be under more pressure there than I ever have before, but I will be happy.”
Kaori finished in second place with a total score of 213.51. Her short program was the highest ranked of the event, with a score of 73.59. She received level-fours on her spins and step sequence. “I was a bit nervous, but once the music started I relaxed,” she excitedly said afterwards. “My coach told me, ‘Just go out and do it!’ I was a bit surprised by the high score.” Practice made perfect for Kaori, with her saying, “I have been practicing in the morning when I usually can’t move my body. But that has enabled me to actually move more when I have to. The (Olympic) programs will be held in the morning in Pyeongchang.”
Kaori’s free skate was given a score of 139.92, fourth best of the event. She under-rotated the second part of her opening triple flip / triple toe combination and received an edge call on her triple lutz. She again received level-fours for her spins and step sequence, “It didn’t really hit me right away that I was first after the short program,” Kaori later said. “I tried my best tonight. At the start of the season I knew that because this was an Olympic year it would be very tough.”
Rika Kihira placed third with a total score of 208.03. Her short program was given a score of 66.74, putting her in fifth. Her free skate score was 141.29, the third best of the event. She cleanly landed two triple axels at the start of her program, the first one in combination with a triple toe. “I was a little nervous, but skating in this big competition gives me confidence for the future,” Rika said. “I wasn’t really concentrating on the triple axels (going into the free skate), but I thought it was good that I could do them.”
Miu Suzaki & Ryuichi Kihara won the pairs competition with a score of 160.71. They were followed by Narumi Takahashi & Ryo Shibata (143.93), and Riku Miura & Shoya Ichashi (140.76).
Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed won the ice dancing competition for the third consecutive year with a score of 166.45. They were followed by Misato Komatsubara & Timothy Koleto (140.97) and Rikako Fukase & Aru Tateno (130.27).
After the Japan Figure Skating Championships, the teams for the Four Continents Championships in Taipei, Taiwan (January 22 – 28), the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea (February 9 – 23), and the World Championships in Milan, Italy (March 19 – 25) were announced. They are as follows:
Four Continents Championships: Shoma Uno, Keiji Tanaka, Takahito Mura, Satoko Miyahara, Kaori Sakamoto, Mai Mihara, Miu Suzaki & Ryuichi Kihara, Narumi Takahashi & Ryo Shibata, Riku Miura & Shoya Ichashi, Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed, Misato Komatsubara & Timothy Koleto, Rikako Fukase & Aru Tateno
Winter Olympics: Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno, Keiji Tanaka, Satoko Miyahara, Kaori Sakamoto, Miu Suzaki & Ryuichi Kihara, Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed
World Championships: Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno, Keiji Tanaka, Satoko Miyahara, Wakaba Higuchi, Miu Suzaki & Ryuichi Kihara, Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed