Ice Network

Uno withstands late charge from Jin to win title

Yamamoto claims bronze medal for Japan behind strong free skate
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The men's medalists (L-R): Silver medalist Boyang Jin of China, gold medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and bronze medalist Sota Yamamoto of Japan. -Klaus-Reinhold Kany

On Saturday in Tallinn, Shoma Uno became the fifth Japanese man to win the world junior title, following in the footsteps of his idol, Daisuke Takahashi (2002), as well as Nobunari Oda (2005), Takahiko Kozuka (2006) and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu (2010).

Rounding out the rest of the podium at the 2015 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, China's Boyang Jin won the free skate and the silver medal, and Uno's countryman, Sota Yamamoto, claimed bronze.

Uno, winner of the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Final in December, was heavily favored, but the scores were closer than expected, because the 17-year-old missed his opening quadruple toe loop, landing just a downgraded triple instead. This cost him 11 or 12 points. His first triple Axel was good, but his second was judged under-rotated by the technical panel. Five other triples were clean, but he landed most of them with deeply bent knees.  

On the plus side, Uno skated with very strong edges. His step sequence -- which rated a rare level 4 -- and his closing combination spin were superb, and he related well to the tango rhythms of the soundtrack of Don Juan de Marco. He finished with 232.54 points.    

"In this championship, more than at any other competition, I felt nervous in both the short program and free skate," Uno said.

A reporter asked Uno what aspects of his skating he needs to improve in order to reach Takahashi and Hanyu's level.

"I think I need to work most on the artistic side," Uno said. "It is also important to get more consistency in my jumps. ... I think it is necessary for me to work on both the artistic and the technical part, but I think, to brush up my artistic side, is the most important thing."

Jin, who placed fifth in the short program, won the free skate with three quadruple jumps: a clean Salchow, a clean toe loop and a toe loop with a hand down on the landing. He also hit a triple Axel and six other triple jumps, giving him a technical element score (TES) of 90.81. However, his choreography, skating skills and transitions were not nearly as strong as Uno's. He ended with 229.70 points.

"It was a quite good performance," Jin said. "The second quad wasn't so good, and I couldn't do the combination as planned, but then I was able to do it later. All the other things were quite good. For next year, I want to improve my skating skills and my performance skills."

Yamamoto climbed from seventh after the short program to place third in the free skate and win a surprising bronze medal. He did not do a quad in his program but performed eight triple jumps, including two slightly shaky Lutzes. He finished with 215.45 points.

"I was so nervous in the short program and tried not to be so nervous and not so stiff today," Yamamoto said. "My (improved) performance was the result of that. This season, I started to do the triple Axel in my programs. So next year, I want to try to include a quad in my program and I also want to brush up the presentation part."

Nathan Chen, who sat ninth after falling on a triple Axel in his short, climbed to fourth place with 213.85 points. He stepped out of his first quad toe loop and almost fell but landed his second quad in combination with a double toe loop. Six triple jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe combination, were clean, and his spins and steps were good.

Chen has been recovering from a heel injury and elected not to try a triple Axel in his free skate.

"I am happier today than I was yesterday," Chen said. "Because of my injury, I did not expect very much from this competition, and I had to take medication here in order to be able to compete. If my first quad had worked, I might either have tried the second one or a triple Axel instead. I have a whole bunch of variations for my long program."

Chen added that he plans to take a few weeks off to heal his ankle, before resuming training in Artesia, California, under Rafael Arutunian.

Russia's Adian Pitkeev and Alexander Petrov placed fifth and sixth, respectively.

U.S. junior champion Andrew Torgashev, who trains in Coral Springs, Florida, under his parents, Artem Torgashev and Ilona Melnichenko, placed 10th. The 14-year-old skater has yet to perfect a triple Axel or quad, but all of his elements were clean, except for a fall on a triple loop.

Torgashev's deep edges, flow and steps linking elements were outstanding. He gained program components averaging around 7.0, the third highest of the event. Many observers think he is reminiscent of a young Patrick Chan.

"Overall, it was pretty good, and I did OK for my first junior worlds," Torgashev said. "I was not expecting such a result. Up to now, my season has never gone past January, so this is new for me. I really liked the experience of such a competition. Everything was comfortable for me, and I stayed relaxed."

Torgashev and his parents plan to up the skater's technical ante next season.

"I will work on the triple Axel, and the quad Salchow and (quad) toe loop now," Torgashev said. "The quad Salchow might be the easiest of the three for me. My mom will work on my choreography for me; I really can trust her."      

Californian Kevin Shum, who is coached by Justin Dillon, opened his free skate with a solid triple flip-triple toe loop but had several jumping mistakes throughout the rest of the program. Still, he showed fine expression performing to a medley that included the soundtrack from Thor: The Dark World.

"I had some troubles in the warm-up," Shum said. "As I was first to skate, I did not really have time to recover. So I did my early elements, but near the end of the program, I was not able to maintain my momentum. I was not really happy about that, but I am glad that I was able to attempt everything."

Shum plans to continue his skating career when he enters college this fall.

"I will take a break now, and after that I plan to work on the triple Axel and quads," he said. "I will go to college next season but have not decided yet which college I will attend, or where I will train."

Chen and Torgashev's placement added up to 14, so the U.S. will have two men at the 2016 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. They missed gaining a third spot by just one placement.

The good news is that since the U.S. finished among the top three nations at the event, U.S. Figure Skating will gain the maximum number of men's spots for the Junior Grand Prix next season. This includes three spots at a Junior Grand Prix held on home turf in Colorado Springs, and two U.S. men at each of the six other events.