What a journey 2021-2022 Season has been to Japan’s Shoma Uno: winning two bronze medals at the Olympics in Beijing, one in the team event, one in the individual event – and then having the best performance of the season in Monpellier, being crowned 2022 World champion.
As if his curriculum weren’t already impressive – silver medalist at 2018 Olympics, two-time World silver medalist (2017, 2018), 2019 Four Continents champion, to name just a few of his achievements.
But you know what?
Despite his impressive list of titles, medals, Shoma Uno stays humble and committed to one goal: to get better, to improve. To grow.
And that includes to continue to look up to top skaters, and learn from them, to aspire to become a role model for the young – and also show gratitude to those supporting him in good and bad.
One thing is sure: Shoma’s detailed answers in Montpellier, after the short, after the free, have been, to us, some of the highlights of the entire men’s event.
And his mindset, the journey he embarked on, with all the challenges, are as praiseworthy as his skating.
by Florentina Tone
Open, candid – that’s how Shoma Uno is both on and off the ice.
In the press conference room, after the short program at Worlds, he would entrust us all with what felt as a very honest answer, almost like a confession:
“I am a skater who did not have the final goal set on the Olympics. So I never actually had a specific goal for my skating career. But then I took part in my first Olympic Games and won a silver [in 2018 – n.ed.], and that actually made me feel like I needed to continue to prove myself with good results.
And I had said openly that I don’t want to be caught up in that mission, or statement that I have to continue to deliver results. But I was actually truly caught up in that – and it was really tough on me.
And when I was practicing, it wasn’t for a sense of achievement or for the joy of skating – it was out of a sense of mission, or more of a duty, that I was practicing.
And then, in 2019, by coincidence, it was also in France at the Grand Prix series [2018 Internationaux de France in Grenoble – n.ed.] I had a terrible performance. I made major mistakes and my standing dropped quite dramatically.
But then I realized that’s not the end.
And I realized it also looking at Yuma [Kagiyama] and how he grew to become such a great skater. I used to just look up to the top skaters, and focus, and practice every day. And that reminded me, once again, of that enthusiasm and energy I had.
And I also wanted to become a role model skater for others who are following behind me”.
Two days later, while skating and winning the first World champion title of his career – after taking silver in 2017 and 2018 – Shoma was asked if he was already thinking of repeating that feat in Saitama, at home Worlds, in 2023.
Another sincere take was just around the corner:
“I’ve answered this many times in interviews – I’m not very good at aiming to set a record, or to win a tournament or competition.
I’m not really good at competing that way.
And, of course, I hate to lose – but I’m not very good at skating just for myself. I wanted to win – and make sure that Stéphane and everybody around me who’s supporting me will be happy for me.
This season – and also looking back on the several seasons that I was really struggling and I didn’t even deliver results – there were people who were there for me, who supported me.
And especially when I was not doing well at all, not doing anything I wanted to do, there was this person who supported me through this whole process – who is my coach.
And I really wanted to make sure that I deliver something to him, and leave a good record.
So, of course, today’s win is something I’m overjoyed with”.
His joy, satisfaction in the Kiss and Cry was easily noticeable. Silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama would say:
“I was actually answering all these interviews, so today I wasn’t able to see Shoma’s performance. But then I got a glimpse of him really looking happy at the Kiss and Cry, and I’ve never seen him so happy and so full of emotions – so that made me realize that he put on a very good performance.
And, you know, I can’t speak for him, and I don’t dare to imagine that I know how hard it’s been for him, but I know that he overcame all those difficulties and challenges that made him, you know, be joyous at the Kiss and Cry today – and I’m sure this victory must mean a lot for him”.
Asked if he was planning to continue his competitive career until Milano-Cortina Games, in 2026, Shoma would say wholeheartedly:
“Well, to be honest, I have never aimed or skated having the Olympics as my goal. So I, myself, do not know what my goal is at this moment.
All I know is that I want to attain more growth next year and the year after that.
And along these lines of consecutive years of growth, I’m hoping maybe there could be a possibility that the Olympics might be there for me too”.
2022 World Figure Skating Championships
March 21-27, 2022
Gold: Shoma Uno, Japan
Silver: Yuma Kagiyama, Japan
Bronze: Vincent Zhou, USA
PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2022 WORLDS
Gold medalist: Shoma Uno
Silver medalist in Montpellier: Yuma Kagiyama
Yuma, on getting the silver medal at Worlds again: “Last year I won this silver medal without having too much thought. I was just there – of course I was happy to win the silver, but I really didn’t think much about winning or delivering good results.
This season, however, has been a very long and dense one. And during the beginning of this season, nothing went well for me. I lost my own way of skating. I was struggling with my jumps, so I was kind of lost in this whole process.
But throughout the season, I started to realize what I needed to do and I was able to have a clear vision of my goal, and I revisited that goal.
So, step by step, through this journey, I was able to overcome a lot of obstacles. And, at the end, here’s the silver medal – and, of course, there are a lot of regrets. Maybe I could’ve done better. But, at the same time, I had a sense of achievement of what I have done, and I think it’s a new step forward for my next season”.
Bronze medalist in Montpellier: Vincent Zhou
Remember, Vincent tested positive at the Olympics in Beijing and didn’t get to skate at all – he spent his days in isolation, and felt tremendous sorrow that his Olympics dreams had been shattered.
It was indeed a turmoil – during the Olympics and afterwards, he’d say in the press conference in Montpellier: “Well, the COVID itself wasn’t that bad, but the mental hell I went through afterwards was infinitely worse than anything COVID could do to me.
I think about 11 or 12 days ago I woke up in this bottomless pit. I called my agent and my coaches and some important people I’m close to and told them that I felt like my whole career has been a failure and has been for nothing. And I just thought I couldn’t do it.
The one thing that got me here to France was the feeling inside me that I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with the regret that I didn’t even try.
And so that was the only thing that I guess kept me somehow invested in my step-by-step journey of coming here, getting on the plane first, and getting on the ice here, and taking it day by day.
So this medal definitely was very, very difficult for me to come by, and it’s definitely one of the most meaningful and significant moments in my career”.
4th: Morisi Kvitelashvili, Georgia
5th: Camden Pulkinen, USA
6th: Kazuki Tomono, Japan
7th: Daniel Grassl, Italy
8th: Adam Siao Him Fa, France
9th: Ilia Malinin, USA
10th: Matteo Rizzo, Italy
11th: Kévin Aymoz, France
12th: Roman Sadovsky, Canada
13th: Deniss Vasiljevs, Latvia
14th: Keegan Messing, Canada
15th: Mihhail Selevko, Estonia
16th: Vladimir Litvintsev, Azerbaijan
18th: Sihyeong Lee, South Korea
23rd: Ivan Shmuratko, Ukraine
WD after SP: Junhwan Cha, South Korea
[All photos by Alberto Ponti, Montpellier
Intro and selection by Florentina Tone]
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