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[ICE TIME] Spectacular Success in the Combined Grand Prix Final for Japanese Skaters

Collecting seven medals including three golds in the junior and senior ranks in the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, Japan established a national record.



Grand Prix Final
Grand Prix Final women's gold medalist Kaori Sakamoto (left) and third-place finisher Hana Yoshida helped Japan collect seven medals in Beijing. (Tingshu Wang/REUTERS)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [ICE TIME] Spectacular Success in the Combined Grand Prix Final for Japanese Skaters

With three gold medals and seven in total, the combined Junior and Senior Grand Prix Final in Beijing (December 6-9) was another highly successful event for Japan. Kaori Sakamoto, Mao Shimada, and Rio Nakata were all victorious in their disciplines. Shoma Uno, Yuma Kagiyama, Rena Uezono, and Hana Yoshida added to the medal haul for the Hinomaru.

The seven medals won by Japan in China established a new record for the country at a combined GP Final, surpassing the six medals that were brought home from Turin, Italy, at 2022's competition.

Ilia Malinin's dominating victory on Saturday night brought up the question of whether we have seen a changing of the guard in the sport. Malinin's five-quad performance in his free skate relegated two-time world champion Uno to a distant second place and made expert observers begin to entertain the possibility.

After watching Malinin's stunning show, legendary skating writer Phil Hersh wrote on X, "Yes, Ilia Malinin fell on 4A. But he followed with five other clean quads, two opening combos in bonus area, to win the Grand Prix Final by 17 points over two-time world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who skated well. Now 2026 Oly (Olympics) favorite? I say yes."

Grand Prix Final
Two-time world champion Shoma Uno (Tingshu Wang/REUTERS)

After Grand Prix Final, Uno Philosophical about Improving Results

Uno, a three-time Olympic medalist, was confronted with the question of what he needed to do to turn things around in the mixed zone after competing.

"If you think too much, you will have to consider your rival's failures, and figure skating is not an interpersonal competition, so it's different," Uno stated in part in his response. "A sport where you do something that your opponent hates."


Uno then elaborated about his view of competing in the sport.

"I think figure skating is a sport where you have to keep fighting with yourself," Uno commented. "My opponent is both a rival and a friend. Of course, it's a lot of fun to compete for scores and compete at a high level, and I think it's fun to watch, but it's best not to get too attached to that."

Uno's sportsmanship and regard for his fellow skaters shone through in his comments.

"I want to approach this sport with the mindset of being able to honestly say, 'I lost this time, but I want to win next time,' and with a strong relationship with my opponent," he said. "All six of us here have that kind of mentality, so it feels very comfortable."

A Clear Challenge for Uno

You could look at the result in China as a one-off, but it is clear that the 19-year-old Malinin is ascending and improving his all-around skating skills, while Uno, who will be 26 on December 17, is struggling to maintain his championship level.

Uno was dinged with four quarter-rotation short calls at November's NHK Trophy in Kadoma, Osaka Prefecture, and received two more in Beijing. Without a quad axel in his jump arsenal, Uno is going to have to correct the under-rotations if he wants to have a chance of winning a third straight world title later this season.

"In my case, there's absolutely no way for me to be able to jump the quad axel," Uno remarked during the press conference after the competition. "He (Malinin) really has the technical level on jumps that I have never seen before. I wonder how many more years it will take for an athlete at that level to show up."


Continue reading 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, and find him on X (formerly Twitter) @sportsjapan.

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