Ice Network

Red-hot Uno in full control after excellent short

Russia's Pitkeev, Petrov sit two-three heading into free skate in Tallinn
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The top three men after the short program (L-R): Adian Pitkeev of Russia (second), Shoma Uno of Japan (first) and Alexander Petrov of Russia (third). -Klaus-Reinhold Kany

Shoma Uno skated a dynamic short program to take a nearly eight-point lead over the men's field at the 2015 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, on Friday.

The 17-year-old from Nagoya, Japan, is one of the fastest-rising stars of this post-Olympic season. Uno -- who counts Machiko Yamada, coach of Midori Ito, as one of his trainers -- won the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Final in Barcelona and placed second behind Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu at the Japanese championships.

The teenager opened his short to Beethoven's "Violin Sonata No. 9" with an outstanding triple Axel that gained +3 Grades of Execution (GOEs) from five of the nine judges. His three spins also earned many pluses, especially the closing change-foot combination spin. His triple flip-triple toe loop combination was very good, but his triple Lutz out of steps lacked good flow on the landing.

"I hate the triple Lutz," Uno said. "I prefer to do the quad in the short program, which I do in my senior short program."

The highlight of Uno's short was his step sequence, which he performed perfectly on the beats of Beethoven, with the musicality of an accomplished ice dancer. It gained Level 4, a relative rarity for single skaters, and four judges rewarded it with +3 GOEs. Uno's program component scores averaged 7.6, and he takes 84.97 points into the free skate.

"I think I achieved one of my best performances in the short program and I hope to do the same tomorrow in the free skate," Uno said.

Adian Pitkeev led the three-skater Russian contingent, and is in second with 76.94 points. Skating to "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" by Sergei Rachmaninoff, the pupil of Eteri Tutberidze opened with an excellent triple Lutz, which gained mostly +2 from the judges. The triple Axel was very good as well, and the triple flip-triple toe combination was passable. His spins were a bit slow, although the first two gained good marks.

"I feel good about my performance because I did everything (well) except the final spin," Pitkeev said. "For the free skate, I want to skate clean."

Like Uno, he prefers to do a quad in the short.

"For me, it is actually easier to do the program with a quad," Pitkeev said. "As the most important element, it comes first in the program, and now I have the triple Axel in the second half. So it is psychologically easier for me to skate with the quad in the short."

Another Russian, Alexander Petrov, sits third with 75.28 points. The longtime student of Alexei Mishin began with a very good triple Axel, followed by a triple flip-triple toe loop combination.

"It wasn't a bad skate today," Petrov said. "Obviously, there were some mistakes, and I hope I can fix them for tomorrow. But overall, it wasn't bad."

South Korea's Jin Seo Kim is fourth with 74.43 points, mainly due to his impressive jumps, which included a high triple Axel. Boyang Jin of China sits fifth with 72.85 points.

Nathan Chen placed the highest of the three U.S. men. He sits in ninth with 69.87 points. Chen fell on the triple Axel at the beginning of his Michael Jackson medley but landed his triple flip-triple toe combination as well as his triple Lutz. His spins and step sequence were strong, but the overall performance lacked fire.

Chen, who trains in Artesia, California, under Rafael Arutunian, was unable to do a triple Axel at the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships due to a heel injury.

"Besides the Axel, it was a good performance. I did the other elements as I had been practicing them," Chen said. "But I had been injured before and paid a [price] today. I like this beautiful rink and the ice quality very much."

"I had the impression that he held back a bit, but he clearly said why," Arutunian said. "I would like to keep this Michael Jackson program and make it more interesting for next season." 

U.S. junior champion Andrew Torgashev of Coral Springs, Florida, is 10th with 67.78 points. The-14-year-old's opening triple flip-triple toe loop combination lacked flow on the landing, but his other elements were solid and his step sequence was exceptional. He skates with deep edges and strong strokes, and reminds some observers of three-time Canadian world champion Patrick Chan when he was around that age.  

"I would have liked it a bit better and easier; it felt a bit rough," Torgashev said. "The Axel and Lutz were pretty good, the combination a bit rough. ... For the free, I will give all I have. I am aiming for the triple Axel next season."

When told his flow over the ice is comparable to a young Chan, he replied, "I took him as my role model."

U.S. junior silver medalist Kevin Shum sits in 16th place with 61.61 points. He did not make any major mistakes, but not all of his elements were completely clean. His triple flip-triple toe loop combination was a highlight, and he skated quite expressively with good arm movements

"I am very happy about my opening triple-triple combination," he said. "This season, I concentrated more on the complete package -- not only on the jumps. This is my first (major international) event, so I was a bit nervous. But I like to skate in bigger arenas like this one, so I felt good."  

Justin Dillon, who coaches Shum in Northern California, has focused on helping his pupil enhance his performance skills this season.

"Kevin is able to take a lot of instruction and make it his own," Dillon said. "He has a natural ability to feel the music. His general posture is very good."

Tallinn Tidbit: Canadian pair Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau, who won the silver medal Thursday, forgot to appear at the "small" medal ceremony for the top three free skates. The ceremony was held in the concourse of the ice rink during the break between the men's short program and the ladies free skate. They had been watching the men's short and left afterward, because no Skate Canada official told them to stay in the arena for this ceremony. Under ISU rules, the skaters may be fined $1,000 for the oversight.