Looking back at the men’s free skate in Barcelona, last December, I see Kaitlyn Weaver sitting on the stairway, her feet underneath her, her hands on her knees, utterly swept into Shoma Uno’s performance to Puccini’s Turandot. I see the Russian “devochki” from the junior pairs’ event standing at my left and following the routine with passion and excitement, cheering and applauding, as everyone else in the arena. I see the red dot flags, I hear the roar. Because, for 4 minutes and 30 seconds, we were all characters in Puccini’s opera – the Japanese has this rare talent of embarking the viewers into his story on the ice – and the bronze medal won in his debut at the senior Grand Prix Final is just the beginning of a wonderful career. I am ready to bet on that.
by Florentina Tone
Two months after the men’s competition in Barcelona, and with the focus mainly being on the history-making feats of Yuzuru Hanyu, I believe it’s about time to revisit some of the other big moments of the Grand Prix Final. And, for us at Inside Skating, Shoma Uno winning the GPF bronze in his first season in seniors is clearly among the highlights – and a defining point for his career.
With that extraordinary performance in mind, we invite you to relive bits of Shoma’s story in Barcelona: you’ll see him through our lens, practicing his programs in CCIB arena, both serious and relaxed, surrounded by journalists (and their interest) in the mixed zone, in the press room, sharing smiles, accomplice looks and inside jokes with Yuzuru Hanyu throughout the entire week, but mostly during the medals ceremony. You must have seen the two having the time of their lives on the podium in Barcelona – and the reason of their hilarious laughter is no longer a mystery, Shoma amusingly talked about it when coming back to Japan. Without further ado, here is Shoma Uno’s detailed photo-journey to becoming the 2015 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist.
Wednesday, December 9. It’s late afternoon in Barcelona and the men take the ice for their first practice session at GPF. Shoma Uno chooses to train his short program and, doing so, he plunges with all conviction in that haunting, addictive music accompanying his routine: “Legends” by Sacred Spirit. Beautifully choreographed by Mihoko Higuchi, this particular program puts Shoma’s skating skills under the spotlight and makes him really stand out in his first season in seniors.
Towards the end of the practice, the Japanese teenager gets more relaxed, exchanging admiring glances with Yuzuru Hanyu – when Boyang Jin jumps the (now) famous quad lutz in their proximity, makes funny faces when landing some of his jumps proves difficult, and then he finds no better place to catch his breath for a couple of seconds than the actual surface of ice…
Thursday, December 10. Next morning, the six men qualified for the 2015 Grand Prix Final are back on the ice for their practice – but with the SP scheduled later that day there’s no time for breaks or random smiles. Wearing his black-grey sparkling suit, resembling a spirit of the ice, Shoma Uno looks completely focused during the 30 minutes practice – and only loosens up when meeting Yuzuru’s eyes at the end of the session: they’re taking their bows to the audience at the exact same time.
Thursday, December 10. It’s past 22:00 p.m. when Shoma Uno takes the ice for his short program, and a sea of Japanese flags embraces the 2014 Junior Grand Prix Final champion (with Barcelona being the host of his triumph). The quad toe gives him a bit of trouble, and, minutes later, surrounded by journalists in the mixed zone, he’ll state in all seriousness: “I made a mistake with the quad toe, but that wasn’t a disaster. I kept fighting. Despite the mistake, my score wasn’t so bad. I think I can catch up with the free skating. This was my first Grand Prix Final at senior level and I managed my emotions pretty well. I wasn’t too nervous”. At the end of the night, Shoma Uno is 4th, with 86.47 points.
Saturday, December 12. Another practice session for the men in Barcelona, 10 hours before the actual start of the free skate, and Shoma Uno fully enters the atmosphere of his long program. His choice of music is courageous – Puccini’s Turandot brought Shizuka Arakawa to her Olympic gold in 2006 – and Shoma Uno surely doesn’t want to disappoint. He’ll rise to the challenge and win the Grand Prix Final bronze in Barcelona, to everyone excitement – but for now he’s fully focused on his practice, already breathing power and intensity and looking completely in command.
Saturday, December 12. At the end of a program that swept everyone off their feet – skated to “Violin’s Fantasy on Puccini’s Turandot” by Vanessa-Mae and the wonderful voice of Paul Potts singing “Nessun Dorma” – Shoma Uno found himself on the third place of the GPF podium, with 190.32 points for the free skate and 276.79 points overall. Uno’s program featured a quadruple-double toeloop, another quadruple toeloop, as well as seven triple jumps. “I’m very pleased with today’s performance, especially the jumps which are my best so far. I was surprised to get over 190 points. I’m satisfied with what I’ve done today, but this is not a goal, it’s just a starting point”, he told the journalists in the mixed zone.
And then the medals ceremony – wasn’t that fun… Cheered by Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernández, as well by the 5.000 people in the arena, Shoma Uno proudly took his place on the podium.
…and then, with all three standing atop of the podium for the official pictures of the medalists, Yuzuru Hanyu suddenly bursts into laughter, and Shoma laughs too, somehow baffled. Seconds of amusement follow – and the most confused of all seems to be Javier Fernández: he doesn’t know Japanese to share the (apparently) good joke with the two.
Upon his return in Japan, Shoma will be asked to explain the hilarious laughter on the podium and he’ll do just that – you’ll find parts of the explanation here (including a more than telling fancam), but the story short is that: when posing for the photographers, Yuzuru had asked Shoma to get near him and Javier and link up with his arm. But Shoma wasn’t sure what to do, so he put his arm through Yuzuru’s one, instead of placing it on his back, as you’d usually do. “That’s for weddings!”, reacted Yuzuru, laughing heartily. See for yourselves – but beware: their joy is contagious.
Minutes later, after the lap of honor, the medalists stop again in front of the photographers – more pictures are about to be taken. So Yuzuru Hanyu carries on with the wedding joke, joyously telling Shoma: “Here, take my arm…”. Another round of laughter follows…
It’s way past 22.00 p.m. when the medalists reach the press room for their final thoughts on their performances. All three of them are tired – you can easily see that on their faces, and Shoma yawns from time to time – but they are really making efforts to thoroughly answer to the journalists’ questions.
As for Shoma, he had already put the GPF behind him, setting his eyes on the Japanese Nationals: “It would be nice to repeat the performance I gave today, but, at the same time, today’s performance was not really my maximum, I think I can do better and so I would like to prove that”. At the end of December, in Sapporo, he’ll do just that, winning for the second (consecutive) time the silver medal behind Yuzuru Hanyu. And, on the podium, they’ll laugh and offer their arms to each other, as a reminder of the Grand Prix Final.
The night in Barcelona ends, as you would expect, on a joyous note – a proof altogether that these two skaters from Japan have a wonderful bond. Shoma is too tired to smile for the last official picture of the day, and when a photographer asks him: “Shoma, smile!”, Yuzuru wants to be of help and pinches his cheek. The smile miraculously appears – on each and every face in press room.
It ain’t over till it’s over: a final round of questions for the GPF bronze medalist…