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[ICE TIME] Sota Yamamoto Scores Decisive Win at Gensan Summer Cup

The 22-year-old Yamamoto landed three clean quadruple jumps and five triples en route to victory in Japan’s biggest summer competition.

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Sota Yamamoto competes in the men's free skate at the Gensan Summer Cup in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on August 13. (KYODO)

Sota Yamamoto started his season in style with a victory in the Gensan Summer Cup in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on Saturday, August 13. 

Yamamoto won with a total score of 263.84 points, easily outdistancing Kazuki Tomono who was second at 218.48, and Kao Miura who finished third on 203.88.

The annual event is Japan’s biggest summer competition, with more than 100 skaters taking part ahead of the block, Junior Grand Prix and Grand Prix campaigns this autumn.

Mai Mihara captured the women’s title with 207.61, ahead of Mana Kawabe (179.67) and Rion Sumiyoshi (176.29) on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Yamamoto landed three clean quadruple jumps and five triples on the way to the triumph. Yamamoto skated to “Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2” in his free skate and opened with a quad salchow, then landed a quad toe loop/double toe loop combination followed by another quad toe loop.

“Recently on the quad toe and quad salchow I have become able to jump so quickly that I forget the feeling of the triple toe and triple salchow,” Yamamoto was quoted as saying. “I want to keep going.”

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Tomono, Miura Challenge

Tomono competed to “Komori Overture” in his free skate and struggled with his jumps from the outset. The 24-year-old began by doubling his planned opening quad toe loop, then landed a quad toe loop/double toe loop combo, before doubling another planned quad toe loop which resulted in an invalid element (and no score for that jump). He fell on a triple axel later in the program.

“As I said after the short program, my lack of practice showed up in my performance,” Tomono stated. “I would like to practice so that I can perform stably.”

Miura also had trouble with his free skate to “The Phantom of the Opera,” hitting the ice twice and having another jump downgraded. He said he wasn’t injured despite going down hard both times.

“I hit the side of the buttocks on the salchow and axel,” Miura noted. “It’s just a bruise. It will be fine when it cools down.”

Mihara Overcomes Music’s Surprise Stop

Mihara’s free skate to “Love Is A Magician” came to an abrupt stop when the music ceased playing at the 2:54 mark. After the issue was fixed, she was able to resume and finish her program.

Mihara hit six clean triples and received level fours for her spins and step sequence in the victory.

“At our club we have a ‘miss stop’ in practice (where the song stops when a mistake is made),” Mihara remarked. “I didn’t want to interrupt the flow. I was able to do it while playing the song in my head. I want to keep improving.”

Kawabe had difficulty with her jumps in her free skate to “Drowning.” She fell on a triple loop late in the program and had another triple toe loop downgraded.

“The most frustrating thing is that I want to practice without forgetting that feeling and do my best in preparation for overseas competitions,” Kawabe said.

Sumiyoshi Rebounds From Slow Start

Sumiyoshi was seventh after the short program, but rallied to make the podium. The 19-year-old Sumiyoshi fell on her opening quad toe loop in her free skate to “Enchantress,” but landed six clean triples and earned level fours on her spins.

“I was aiming for a no-miss performance, so it’s frustrating that I couldn’t do it,” Sumiyoshi commented. “I wasn’t in a state of concentration like I was yesterday. I got a little timid when it came to production.”

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Yoshioka Wins Junior Men’s Competition

Nozomu Yoshioka won the junior men’s crown with 197.73 points on Sunday. Shunsuke Nakamura (194.94) came in second, with Haru Kakiuchi (183.47) taking third.

The 18-year-old Yoshioka helped secure the win with a nice quad toe loop/triple toe loop combination at the outset of his free skate to “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

“I’m very happy that I was able to win,” Yoshioka stated.  “Since last year’s block competition, I have always been in third place. I really wanted to win this event. The start was frustrating, but I was able to finish the other jumps well. That’s good.”

Nakamura felt the competition was filled with top-notch skaters.

“The level was high. It was a contest similar to that of the Japan Junior Championships,” Nakamura commented. “I want to do things that build confidence.”

Haru admitted he was worn out following his free skate.

“During practice I was a little faster,” Haru remarked. “My physical strength was exhausted at the end.”

Yamada Claims Junior Women’s Title

Kei Yamada won the junior women’s title with 148.65 with six clean triples on Saturday, topping the podium ahead of Kaoruko Wada (147.08) and Yurina Okuno (137.36).

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“Gen-chan is so cute,” the 13-year-old Yamada said about the event mascot after her free skate to “Funny Girl.” “Even if my jumps aren’t that good, I think I will be able to recover.”

Wada admitted she was not happy with her free skate.

“There were a lot of under-rotations,” Wada stated. “I’m a little frustrated because my score wasn’t good at all. I want to skate like Mao Asada. It’s a waltz, so it would be nice if I could perform like a ball.”

Yurina Okuno also acknowledged that she has work to do in the coming weeks.

“It wasn’t a satisfactory performance at all,” Okuno commented about her free skate. “There is still time until the season begins, like the block competitions. I would like to challenge myself little by little.”

Hanyu Debuts on YouTube

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who announced his retirement from competition last month, unveiled his own YouTube channel on August 7 with a brief introduction. The move was a first for the superstar, who has had no social media presence all these years, despite a massive global following.

Hanyu then live streamed a two-hour practice from Ice Rink Sendai on August 10. His drawing power remains second to none in skating, as evidenced by the fact that in just one week the practice has been viewed 2.5 million times. In the 10 days since launching the channel, Hanyu has attracted some 659,000 subscribers.

It will be interesting to see in the coming months if Hanyu decides to expand his social media presence elsewhere on platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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Surgery for Shcherbakova

Olympic champion Anna Shcherbakova, who is currently banned by the International Skating Union from skating along with her fellow Russians, revealed in an Instagram post on Tuesday that she will be undergoing knee surgery due to a previous injury.

“Professional sport is a full dedication,” Shcherbakova wrote. “Unfortunately, because of my old knee injury, I can’t train in full force.”

Alexander Kogan, the Director General of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, confirmed the news to TASS, which was translated and posted on fs-gossips.com.

“Indeed, Anna will have surgery,” Kogan stated. “Tomorrow she flies to Germany. They are sending her to a clinic whose specialists have already helped Russian skaters many times. We hope for her speedy recovery.

“The injury bothered her for a long time,” Kogan continued. “But while she was preparing for the Olympic Games, it was not possible to heal it completely.”

Junior Grand Prix Season Set to Begin

The Junior Grand Prix season opens August 24-27 in Courchevel, France, with the first of seven competitions. All of the events will be streamed live on the ISU’s Junior Grand Prix YouTube channel with Ted Barton again providing commentary.

Japan is dispatching Shunsuke Nakamura and Ryoga Morimoto to join the men’s field in the French Alps, while two-time Japan Junior Championship medalist Hana Yoshida and Ayumi Shibayama will be in the women’s lineup.

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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, here, and find him on Twitter @sportsjapan.

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