Shoma Uno at 2023 NHK Trophy: a free skate like a journey. His journey

That how we felt – that’s how so many of you felt.

It was as if Shoma Uno embarked on a journey of a career – the first couple of seconds of the program really give you that sense of beginnings, of doors that open – and was determined to make the most of it.

To put all of himself into that skate.

by Florentina Tone


Seconds after it ended, this little story wrote itself:

This program, Shoma Uno’s long program is silence, is beauty, is essence of skating.
The time he takes to complete every move, until he becomes one with it, is just mesmerizing.
This program feels as easy, as beautiful, as soothing as breathing – a loyal, faithful companion.

We stand by it.

We’re still struck by it, by the inner rhythm that Shoma imprinted his free skate with – to the marvelous musical pieces that “Timelapse” and “Spiegel im Spiegel” are, chosen, with purpose, with meaning by coach Stéphane Lambiel.


It might very well be these wonderful years that Shoma Uno has been on the world stage, surrounded by this aura of magic, sensitivity, complete abandonment to music.

“Spiegel im Spiegel”?

Literally, mirror(s) in the mirror: a piece with “a powerful emotional impact” (critics say, and we agree), the reflection of a career in tiny, infinite mirrors, nearer, farther, a magnifying glass that sees all nuances, all shapes, all undulations of a skating journey that keeps on giving.

You might have not noticed, or counted, or even thought about it – but Shoma Uno has been on the international circuit for more than a decade, since Innsbruck 2012.

He then won his future coach, Stéphane Lambiel, who said later in an interview for Inside Skating: “I do believe the first memory [of Shoma] is Innsbruck, the Youth Olympic Games, back in 2012. He was probably 14… but he looked like 10 [smiling]. 9 or 10 [continues to smile], he looked super, super, super, super cute.

He could not speak any English, but he came to the conference that I was giving as an Athlete Role Model – and what I can remember is that he already had this kind of magic while he was skating, something that he was not aware of.

There was something in his performance, there’s something happening that you’re not able to describe…”

Two years later, 16-year old Shoma Uno would already win many faithful admirers when skating at 2014 Junior Worlds in Sofia, Bulgaria, where his “Blessed Spirits” short program had the power of a spell.

Consider it the beginning of a cycle, if you may.

He then won the Junior Grand Prix Final in December 2014, won the Junior Worlds in Tallinn in 2015 – and his green, lush, sumptuous “Turandot” in Barcelona, in December 2015, at his first senior Grand Prix Final already, was almost a mystical experience.

One that was watched with eyes amazed, hearts on the sleeve, by people in the stands, including well-established stars of the sport that saw the men’s free skate in the media tribune.

We keep in mind a blurry image of Kaitlyn Weaver watching Shoma’s Turandot, hands on her knees, utterly swept into the performance – and the outburst of all the feels, the feet that sprang in a second in a spontaneous standing ovation at the end of that skate.

That’s how Shoma Uno entered the senior stage: door wide open in front of him, arms wide open.

And that door stayed open, and those arms kept embracing this special skater season after season.

His coach again: “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”.

Just listen, just read.

At 25, Japan’s Shoma Uno is a three-time Olympic medalist (2018 silver, 2022 bronze, 2022 team bronze), a two-time World champion (2022, 2023), a two-time World silver medalist (2018, 2017), the 2019 Four Continents champion (bronze in 2017, silver in 2018), the 2022-23 Grand Prix Final champion (apart from his two GPF silver medals and his two GPF bronze medals), a fourteen-time Grand Prix medalist (8 gold medals, 6 silver medals), the 2017 Asian Winter Games champion, a five-time Japanese national champion (2016-2019, 2022). At the junior level, Shoma is the 2015 World Junior champion, the 2014-15 Junior Grand Prix Final champion and 2012 Youth Olympic silver medalist.

With that in mind, you might want to re-watch Shoma Uno’s free skate in Osaka, at 2023 NHK Trophy that recently concluded.

We might have re-watched it more than once – it might be already imprinted in our permanent skating memory.

In just a few words: we feel it encapsulates a career.

But more than that, it encapsulates Shoma Uno’s one of a kind feel for the music, that was lived to the fullest.

He gave himself the space, the time for it – he gave himself the permission to fully breathe within the music.

And that spread eagle, arms slowly descending, those seconds of grace, when time stood still, now live rent free in our hearts.

[by Florentina Tone
Photos by C. Nguyen in Osaka, at 2023 NHK Trophy]

[Make no mistake: this is not a report of the men’s free skate, nor aims to be one – this is a chronicle of emotions. Embrace it – or let it pass you by.]


2014 Junior Worlds, a short list of joys: Uno, Radionova, Krylova, Orser

Shoma Uno: the story of a triumph

Shoma Uno ends his junior years with the shiniest medal of all

In the spotlight: Shoma Uno takes GPF bronze in his first season in seniors

Stéphane Lambiel: “Do it. Show us your colours!”

Shoma Uno, 2022 World champion – and other highlights from Montpellier

Stéphane Lambiel: “I want Shoma to have no limits in his dreams”

Sota Yamamoto, 2022 Grand Prix Final silver medalist: “Once again I can aspire to be close to Shoma and increase my level further”

Shoma Uno wins gold in Torino, coach Stéphane Lambiel is on cloud nine: “Shoma is not a big name from today, but for a long time already”