“What?! Shoma said he didn’t know my programs?”, amused Stéphane Lambiel stops at the door of the press conference room in Torino, hearing his name in a response by student Shoma Uno.
The Japanese has just won the Grand Prix Final crown in Palavela – the Olympic ice rink from 2006, bearing so much meaning to the Swiss coach, Olympic silver medalist at the time –, and the final question of the men’s press conference investigates Shoma Uno’s skating knowledge, more specifically the knowledge on his coach’s performances and programs.
Shoma hasn’t watched those programs still – he says he only watches the programs of his competitors each season – and his honest, simple, almost embarrassed answer to the media is welcomed with amused laughter in the room.
But also with the sudden reaction of his coach – “This is about me?!” – who just happens to hear his name throughout the Japanese-English translation.
Stéphane goes on to hug his student, promises a history lesson (“But we skated Four Seasons together!”), puts on a Santa cap while Shoma smilingly declines his, offers a symbolical (and much desired) Level 4 for his student’s last spin, and then he remains at the desk, quickly surrounded by the journalists in the room asking him to comment on Shoma’s performance.
Questions arise from all parts, on all voices, a symphony of various topics regarding Shoma’s skate and the coach’s reactions to it – but, as you’ll notice for yourselves, Stéphane’s answers are all homogeneous and go in the very same direction: the good environment that Shoma Uno is in, the support and the love he receives, his handsomeness on the ice, his continuous strive for growth.
And so we invite you to read all those answers in full, Stéphane’s immediate reactions to Shoma Uno’s performance in Olympic Palavela.
Prevalent emotions: love, enthusiasm, admiration. Prevalent words: love, aura, Ikemen.
Intro by Florentina Tone; questions coming from a group of journalists at GPF in Torino
Stéphane, what do you want to share with us when it comes to Shoma’s free skate here in Torino, at the Final?
Well, I think the two strong things are Shoma’s focused mind and his free spirit to move the way he does.
Yes, freedom and focus together make this harmony and this great performance.
But isn’t it hard to be free while also maintaining this complete focus?
I think it’s the most difficult – to have the control, but at the same time the let go.
How much time did Shoma spend with you before this competition?
We spent one week together.
And do you think it made a big difference?
I think it gave him a good rhythm, yes.
Before NHK Trophy, we didn’t spend time together, and when I met him it was the day before the short, and I felt like it was a bit challenging for him to get the rhythm.
So this time it was just the good time to meet, to check a couple of things and go to competition together.
Shoma said in the mixed zone after the free skate that he focused on the jumps during the time spent with you prior to the Final – is that correct?
We focused on the jumps, yes – he was focusing a lot on consistency, and since we didn’t have the combos at NHK Trophy and the Change Sit Spin, we also worked on the jump combos and the Change Sit. But we still need to work on that, because we can still make those better than this.
Shoma is this very artistic skater, but he always speaks about the jumps… [Stéphane smiles and so is everyone else in the room]. Where do you think his artistry comes from?
I think he has a lot of people around that love him – and that gives him this aura.
Because of all the love that he gets from his environment – he’s a very lovable person –, I think it gives him harmony to move like that, full of love and passion. That helps to be beautiful, and to be elegant, and he has a good image…
His natural movement is very beautiful, his musicality is just incredible…
Before, when he was a novice or a junior skater, he was very cute, but now he’s so handsome! [Stéphane bursts into laughter].
I feel like he’s Ikemen – Ikemen is coming!, with a beautiful costume… Yes!
[By now, literally everyone smile to the ears.
And for those unaware, the term “ikemen” derives from the Japanese words “ikeru”, or “iketeru”, meaning “cool”, “good”, exciting”, while “menzu” is the Japanization of “men”.
The term has been used to reference good looking men featured in Japanese pop culture, according to Wikipedia]
You are an Ikemen too!
Well, I try to match! [and there’s laughter again in the press conference room]
“I THINK HE WAS ALWAYS A SKATER AT THE TOP”
Shoma became a World champion this March – did you notice any changes in him, in his mindset, behavior?
I really appreciate the fact that after the World Championships he didn’t change.
The fact that he won Worlds didn’t affect him so much, and I think that’s very important and very nice. He didn’t think: Now, that I am World champion I don’t need to work – he stayed quiet, and he works very hard. He works like before being World champion. And this is something very special.
Some skaters, after being World champions – and I talk about myself: I felt that I lacked some objectives because I had reached my dream, and so the next step was difficult. But for him, he was very consistent, and hard-working – so good job, Shoma!
This is actually his second big title on the world arena, after the World title – so what do you think is the meaning of the Grand Prix Final champion title for him?
For him? I mean, I think today is a great celebration for him, but I think that tomorrow he will kind of put that behind and…
I see that he’s very focused on moving forward – so, for him, today he’s very satisfied, but tomorrow he will already forget about today. Not forget, but focus on the next step.
He was in the shadow of Yuzuru and Nathan for a long time – do you think he knows that things have changed for him?
[Stéphane is very quick in answering this one – he disagrees] I think he was always a skater at the top, even when Yuzu and Nathan were here.
For me, Shoma Uno is not a big name from today – he’s a big name for many years already.
I know Shoma Uno as one of the greatest figure skaters not from today, but for a long time already – and he’s still here, and he’s still very consistent, and hard-working, and I think he’s part of the group of the greatest skaters of figure skating history. For sure.
And not because he won today, but because of his long career.
“HE’S A CHALLENGER, HE’S LOOKING FORWARD – AND THAT’S GROWTH!”
You know, at each and every press conference of his, he’s always talking about growth, about wanting to grow – but growth in what way, artistically, jumping-wise?
Like I said, for Shoma, once that something is done, he’s already focused on the next – and that means growth, I think.
Not looking back, not looking at what he achieved, but looking forward! And he likes challenges, he’s a challenger, he’s looking forward – and that’s growth!
For him, he comes off the ice and he’s already thinking: What’s next? Like: Where I should be, and next time this, and next time that. And I like that vision! And, as a coach, I try to match that.
Because, as a coach, it’s important to be a little bit ahead of that thought! – but he sees so fast in front, so I need to match again. So it’s not only Ikemen-match [laughing], it’s also the need to have a strong mind matching, you know? Uuuuh!
[It’s a challenge for the coach himself – that’s the overall feeling of Stéphane’s answer]
What about the free skate now, the way you see it, compared to when he started skating it, and where can it go from here? How do you see him now in the free skating?
I liked the passion that he has put today – and I’m satisfied with today better than at NHK Trophy.
Of course, I expect more, and I will join Shoma with the jump-discussion – I think jump-wise there is a margin to grow.
Other than combination jumps, what’s the next step for him?
We have started last summer to work on [quad] Lutz, so I think we will continue to work on that – and it’s not only about landing the quad Lutz, but it’s also about understanding the dynamics of the jump. I like to challenge him with that – so we will continue working on that.
His jumps do look effortless, for years and years now – what’s behind that, is the technique or…?
I think his mind is getting simpler for complex things, you know?
To achieve something complex, his method is becoming simpler. Maybe one key-word is enough to make a very complex series of movements. If I ask him just to pay attention at the direction [finger at his head], that will create [in him] a long chain of complex movements.
At NHK Trophy you discussed with Shoma – and he said he was inspired by your words; what did you say to him?
I was very disappointed with the NHK performance, so I asked him to put more… Shoma Uno’s magic in it. Yes, that was kind of the general message.
He’s magical – and I want to see this magic.
Does he know he is? Or do you need to reassure him every day?
[Smiling] No, I don’t think he knows, but I want to challenge him to get there.
[This very detailed discussion with the coach took place right after men’s press conference at the Grand Prix Final in Torino, with Shoma Uno winning the gold medal. A group of journalists contributed, in an effort to understand, and praise, the dynamics of this very successful partnership.
Photos by Alberto Ponti, International Skating Union, Florentina Tone
Homepage photo © International Skating Union]
>>> Shoma Uno, 2022 Grand Prix Final champion: “For the Final I was well prepared and I felt good that I was able to put out everything that I was training for – and this is a good trend for me. It’s a great moment – I’m not seeking to do more than I do in training – I just want to make sure that, with all the training, there is a good performance at the competition. (…)
At this competition, especially during the free program, all the other skaters did so amazing that it motivated me to enjoy and also do my best for my performance”.
>>> Lucas Broussard, 2022 junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist: “My favorite skater here is Shoma Uno. I think, the power he gets is really impressive, and he is an amazing skater too. It’s really inspiring to be able to just be here with him, walk by him, look at him – it’s nice to know he is here, and I’m here with him, it’s really cool”.