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[ICE TIME] Sota Yamamoto's Renaissance Highlights a Great Grand Prix Final for Japan

Yamamoto's promising career was hampered by ankle injuries. Now, "I'm really happy to have the feeling that I'm finally back," he said at the Grand Prix Final.

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Sota Yamamoto competes in the men's free skate at the 2022 Grand Prix Final on December 10 in Turin, Italy. (KYODO)

This article first appeared on SportsLook, JAPAN Forward's dedicated sports website.

It was a fantastic week for Japan at the Junior and Senior Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, from December 8-10.

Led by victories from Mai Mihara, men's world champion Shoma Uno, pairs Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and junior Mao Shimada, the Hinomaru garnered a record total of six medals. That surpasses its previous best mark of five in the combined competition set in 2012 in Sochi, Russia.

In addition to the four gold medals, Japan collected a silver in the senior men's competition via Sota Yamamoto and a bronze in the junior men's event from Nozomu Yoshioka. By any measure, the week was a smashing success for Japanese skaters.

Japan could easily have grabbed two more medals but for the unexpectedly disappointing performances of women's world champion Kaori Sakamoto and junior Hana Yoshida. Sakamoto and Yoshida were both expected to make the medals stand. But they each endured unusually poor outings and ended up placing fifth and sixth, respectively.

Uno, Mihara, Miura/Kihara and Shimada all entered the GP Final as favorites and came through with victories. But the effort that resonated the most with Ice Time was that of Yamamoto. The 22-year-old, once seen as the heir apparent to Yuzuru Hanyu before being beset by injuries, had the best competition of his senior career to make the podium with Uno.

With Ilia Malinin of the United States having put up a huge number in the free skate, any big mistake by Yamamoto could have knocked him down to third place. He dug deep with a gutty showing, however, hitting three quads in a fluid skate showing that wowed the judges and resulted in personal bests of 179.49 points for the free skate and total score of 274.35.

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Read the full story on SportsLook.

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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