Shoma Uno: the story of a triumph

The junior men's podium in Barcelona, with Shoma Uno winning the gold - a happy and very modest Junior Grand Prix Final Champion

The junior men’s podium in Barcelona, with Shoma Uno winning the gold – a happy and very modest Junior Grand Prix Final Champion

Japanese junior champion Shoma Uno skated a gorgeous free program in Barcelona a few nights ago, winning the gold medal at his first participation in the Junior Grand Prix Final. This is the story of a day that started alarmingly bad, with a not so successful practice, and finished gloriously, with a brilliant performance and a gold medal around Shoma’s neck.

by Florentina Tone

Hands on his knees, the 2014 Japanese Junior champion Shoma Uno heads to the boards looking exhausted, to talk to his coach, Mihoko Higuchi; he had fallen repeatedly during the morning practice, missing some of his jumps and spreading anxiety among his tens of Japanese fans in the arena. Shoma was on the third place after the short program and the odds seemed to be against him, given the fact he didn’t seem to find himself – or his jumps – in the practice.

Well, some hours later – nine, to be more precise – this wonderful skater from Japan, turning 17 on December 17th, nailed an exquisite free program at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, starring a quad toe, a triple Axel, three combos and three other triples; his spins and step sequence were all level four, Shoma performing, as some would say, a foot-perfect routine, to Spanish-themed music; and what better place to skate to “Don Juan de Marco” than Barcelona? He got 163.06 points for this program and 238.27 overall – and the Japanese lady in front of me was ecstatic: “This is his best performance this season!”; and, in the excitement of the moment, she threw a little toy on the ice, smiling with satisfaction.

In the mixed zone and, minutes later, in the press conference, the winner of the Junior Grand Prix Final title seemed happy and humble; and, most of all, modest, as if he didn’t want to disturb anyone with an overreacted reaction of joy. Hours later, with all the events of the day finished, Shoma Uno stepped proudly on the podium – the gold medal around his neck was the perfect ending to a day that had started so bad; and, as one of the Japanese journalists in Barcelona put it, “A new star is born”; with the following extension: “Now that Daisuke Takahashi has retired, we may have a baby-Daisuke”. This particular choice of words might very well describe the ideal to which Shoma aspires – given the fact that, at the press conference, the junior gold medalist said it simply and convincingly when asked what specifically he would learn from the Senior skaters in Barcelona: “I want to watch their skating skills and expressions today and tomorrow, to learn from them. The skater I most admire, although he’s retired, is Daisuke Takahashi”.

With these words in mind, I invite to relive Shoma Uno’s triumph in Barcelona, starting with the short program, continuing with the alarming practice in the morning of the free skating – and finishing with him on the podium of the Grand Prix Final.

Skating to "Violin Sonata No. 9" by Kreutzer, Shoma Uno received 75.21 points, finishing this particular segment of the event on the third place

Skating to “Violin Sonata No. 9” by Kreutzer, Shoma Uno received 75.21 points, finishing this particular segment of the event on the third place

A commando of Japanese fans, in the arena of the Grand Prix Final

A commando of Japanese fans, in the arena of the Grand Prix Final

Shoma Uno skating to Kreutzer's sonata

Shoma Uno skating to Kreutzer’s sonata

Performing his short program, Shoma Uno stepped out of its triple Axel after he'd landed it perfectly, for numerous times, during the warm-up; here, ready for the take-off

Performing his short program, Shoma Uno stepped out of its triple Axel after he’d landed it perfectly, for numerous times, during the warm-up; here, ready for the take-off

Shoma, skating his short program in Barcelona

Shoma, skating his short program in Barcelona

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Alongside coach Mihoko Higuchi in the Kiss and Cry; minutes later, he stated:  "I'm asking myself what happened. I think it was so-so, but I regretted missing the triple Axel. So tomorrow I want to make up for it, tomorrow I would like to do a quad"

Alongside coach Mihoko Higuchi in the Kiss and Cry; minutes later, he stated: “I’m asking myself what happened. I think it was so-so, but I regretted missing the triple Axel. So tomorrow I want to make up for it, tomorrow I would like to do a quad”

Well, in the morning of the free program, on December 12th, things went a little bit rough for Shoma Uno...

Well, in the morning of the free program, on December 12th, things went a little bit rough for Shoma Uno…

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A common image in the practice, with Shoma failing to land some of the jumps

A common image in the practice, with Shoma failing to land some of the jumps

Words of encouragement from coach Mihoko Higuchi

Words of encouragement from coach Mihoko Higuchi

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Nine hours later, Shoma Uno was ready to take the ice for the free program

Nine hours later, Shoma Uno was ready to take the ice for the free program

...and he did skate brilliantly in the final

…and he did skate brilliantly in the final

An emotional moment for Shoma Uno and his coach in the Kis and Cry, after the free program; his expression says it all

An emotional moment for Shoma Uno and his coach in the Kis and Cry, after the free program; his expression says it all

At the press conference, Shoma stated with sincerity: "I am surprised with myself. I skated much better than I expected. After the short program I was sad but today's free skating made up for it"

At the press conference, Shoma stated with sincerity: “I am surprised with myself. I skated much better than I expected. After the short program I was sad but today’s free skating made up for it”

The Junior Grand Prix champion, answering to the journalists' questions during the official press conference after the free program

The Junior Grand Prix champion, answering to the journalists’ questions during the official press conference after the free program

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The medalists of this season's edition of the Grand Prix Final: Sota Yamamoto (silver), Shoma Uno (gold), Alexander Petrov (bronze)

The medalists of this season’s edition of the Grand Prix Final: Sota Yamamoto (silver), Shoma Uno (gold), Alexander Petrov (bronze)

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Japan takes home two medals in the junior men's event: gold for Shoma Uno, silver for Sota Yamamoto

Japan takes home two medals in the junior men’s event: gold for Shoma Uno, silver for Sota Yamamoto

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Later that night, the junior king got his crown - in this case, the gold medal

Later that night, the junior king got his crown – in this case, the gold medal

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Happy men on the podium

Happy men on the podium