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.