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[ICE TIME] Shoma Uno Leads Top 10 List for Japanese Skaters in 2021-22

In his sublime performance to “Bolero,” Uno finally broke out on the world stage with his first victory in a major senior competition.

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Shoma Uno competes in the men's free skate at the World Figure Skating Championships on March 26 in Montpellier, France. (Francisco Seco/AP)

With the long season now concluded, Ice Time has compiled a list of the top 10 best performances by Japanese skaters during the 2021-22 campaign.

The list places a priority on results in major competitions like the Olympics, world championships and national championships, while taking into account mitigating factors such as injury, record scores and big moves up the standings.

1. Shoma Uno World Championships (Free Skate)

After skating in the shadow of the legendary Yuzuru Hanyu for years, Uno finally broke out on the world stage with his first victory at a major senior competition. His sublime performance to “Bolero” featured four clean quadruple jumps and an attempt at a fifth, and earned him personal bests in the free skate (202.85 points) for a total score of 312.48. It was a transformative moment for the three-time Olympic medalist, and one his fans will long remember.

Watch the performance here.

2. Shoma Uno – World Championships (Short Program)

The 24-year-old Uno set the stage for what would turn out to be the biggest triumph of his career with a superb skate to “Oboe Concerto.” With Olympic silver medalist and teammate Yuma Kagiyama favored for the world title, Uno took the initiative and seized the lead with a nearly perfect performance that resulted in a personal best score of 109.63.

Watch it here.

3. Yuma Kagiyama – Beijing Olympics (Short Program)

Following in the footsteps of his father and coach Masakazu at the 1992 and 1994 Olympics, Kagiyama showed that his years of training had prepared him well for the biggest stage in the sport. His routine to the upbeat “When You’re Smiling” was energetic and confident. He impressed the nine-judge panel, which gave him no lower than a “3” score on all of the seven elements in his program.

Watch it here.

4. Yuzuru Hanyu – Japan Championships (Short Program)

Coming off another injury to his right ankle that has caused him to miss the Grand Prix season, Hanyu put on a powerful show to “Rondo Capriccioso” before a full house at Saitama Super Arena. The superstar removed any doubts about his fitness by taking a nearly 10-point lead into the free skate on his way to a sixth national title.

Watch it here. 

5. Yuzuru Hanyu – Japan Championships (Free Skate)

In a strong position after the short program, Hanyu made his first attempt at landing the mythical quad axel. Even though he came up short, his courage in attempting the jump made for a memorable evening for all in attendance. Hanyu moved through the rest of his program to “Heaven and Earth” like the great master he is and prevailed once more.

Watch it here.

6. Kaori Sakamoto – Beijing Olympics (Free Skate)

In fourth place after the short program, Sakamoto showed great poise under immense pressure as the controversy over short program leader Kamila Valieva’s failed drug test swirled. Skating to “No More Fight Left In Me,” Sakamoto landed six clean triples in a powerful effort that showed incredible ice coverage and moved the judges. After Valieva melted down in her free skate, Sakamoto emerged with the bronze medal.

Watch it here.

7. Yuma Kagiyama – Beijing Olympics (Team Event Free Skate)

With Uno and Wakaba Higuchi having helped put Japan in medal position with strong short programs, Kagiyama came on and won the free skate with a steady showing to “Gladiator” that included four quads and six triples. It was a great performance that would foreshadow his success in the singles days later. 

Watch it here.

8. Kaori Sakamoto – World Championships (Free Skate)

Going into the competition as the favorite, two-time national champion Sakamoto rose to the occasion and led wire-to-wire to become the sixth Japanese woman to win the world crown. She exhibited great poise by reprising her fantastic effort at the Beijing Olympics, and capped off an incredible season with the greatest accomplishment of her career. She joined Midori Ito, Yuka Sato, Shizuka Arakawa, Miki Ando and Mao Asada in the pantheon of Japan greats.

Watch it here.

9. Mao Shimada – Japan Junior Championships (Free Skate)

The 13-year-old phenom vaulted from fourth place after the short program to capture the Japan junior title with a scintillating skate to “Queen’s Gambit” in Nagoya. Shimada opened with a beautiful quad toe loop and effortlessly landed seven clean triples on the way to her triumph. She earned level fours for all of her spins and showed why she has enormous potential moving forward.

Watch it here.

10. Mai Mihara – Four Continents Championships (Free Skate)

Mihara claimed her second Four Continents title five years after the first with her strong performance to “Fairy of the Forest.” She landed seven clean triples and notched level fours for her spins and step sequence to achieve personal bests of 145.41 points for the free skate and 218.03 for total score. After being left off the team for the Beijing Olympics, Mihara displayed all of her sublime skills on the way to victory.

Watch it here.


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, here, and find him on Twitter @sportsjapan.