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[ICE TIME] Mao Shimada and Rio Nakata Going for Gold at Winter Youth Olympics

Japan has a strong record of success in figure skating at the Winter Youth Olympics. Shimada and Nakata are poised to add to the nation's medal haul.

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Winter Youth Olympics
Mao Shimada, seen competing in the women's short program at the Japan Championships on December 22, 2023, in Nagano, returns to the spotlight at the 2024 Winter Youth Olympics. (ⒸSANKEI)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [ICE TIME] Mao Shimada and Rio Nakata Going for Gold at Winter Youth Olympics

World junior champion Mao Shimada and Junior Grand Prix Final titlist Rio Nakata will enter the Winter Youth Olympics in Gangwon, South Korea, as the favorites in their respective events. Both skaters are 15 years old, and they will be looking to add to their impressive string of victories in the 2023-24 season.

The men's singles competition is slated to begin with the short program on Saturday, January 27, with the women's short program to follow the next day.

Japan has a strong record of success in figure skating at the quadrennial extravaganza and is the defending champion in the men's discipline where Yuma Kagiyama captured the gold in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2020. Sota Yamamoto was also the men's titlist back in 2016, while Shoma Uno claimed the silver in 2012.

Winter Youth Olympics
Rio Nakata is the reigning Junior Grand Prix Final men's champion. (KYODO)

To be eligible to compete in the Winter Youth Olympics, individuals had to be born between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2009. 

The skating in South Korea will be held at the Gangneung Ice Arena, the site of Yuzuru Hanyu's second Olympic triumph in 2018, with 68 skaters from 25 nations taking part. Shimada will be joined in the women's lineup by Yo Takagi, while Haru Kakiuchi, who was fourth at the Japan Junior Championships, will back up Nakata.

Once the singles, pairs and ice dance competitions have ended, there will be a team event held, with Japan having a chance for a medal despite not having an entry in either pairs or ice dance. Russian skaters continue to be banned from international competitions by the ISU and thus will have no participants at the Winter Youth Olympics.

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Winter Youth Olympics
Jia Shin in a September 2023 file photo. (ⒸISU)

Women's Medal Favorites for Winter Youth Olympics

Shimada's prime challenger will once again be South Korea's Jia Shin, who took second behind Shimada at the 2023 World Junior Figure Skating Championships and again at the JGP Final in Beijing in December. With Shimada and Shin likely battling for gold and silver, the chase for bronze will likely come down to Shin's compatriot Yuseong Kim, who was fourth at the JGP Final, and Takagi. 

It appears highly likely that the podium in Gangneung will be filled by only Japanese and South Korean skaters.

Shimada told Ice Time at last year's world juniors in Calgary that one of her goals for this year was to win the gold at the Winter Youth Olympics and it will have to be considered an upset if she doesn't, even with Shin skating on home ice.

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.

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Author: Jack Gallagher

The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world's foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, and find him on X (formerly Twitter) @sportsjapan.

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