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2015 World Junior Championships

Shoma Uno takes Men’s gold

 by Tatjana Flade

(11 March 2015)  Shoma Uno became the fifth Japanese man to win the World Junior title, following in the footsteps of Daisuke Takahashi (2002), Nobunari Oda (2005), Takahiko Kozuka (2006) and Yuzuru Hanyu (2010). The podium was all Asian with Uno, China’s Boyang Jin in second and Sota Yamamoto of Japan in third place.

Uno wasn’t as superior as he was in the Junior Final. In his short program to Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9, Shoma had a tight landing on the triple Lutz, but still earned a strong lead with 84.87 points. “I think I achieved one of my best performances in the short program and I hope to do the same tomorrow in the free skating”, he said. “As I hate the triple Lutz, I prefer to do the quad in the short program”, he added when asked about switching back to a junior program. The quad is not allowed in the junior short program, but seven out of the 24 skaters went for (at least) one in the free skating. Uno was one of them, but he landed forward on a botched triple that was downgraded. The 17-year-old recovered to land six clean triples, but one triple Axel was underrotated. Shoma’s spins and footwork are exquisite and he earned a level four for everything except a flying camel spin that was a level three. Shoma scored 147.67 points and was ranked second, but overall defended his overnight lead to win the title with 232.54 points in his fourth appearance at Junior Worlds. He had worked his way up slowly – he was 10th in 2012, 7th in 2013 and 5th in 2014. “In this championship I felt more nervous in the short and free program than in any other competition”, the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final Champion admitted. “In juniors, the expression is less strong than at the senior level. I think I need to work most on the artistic side. It is also important to get more consistency in my jumps.

I think it is necessary for me to work on both the artistic and the technical part, but I think to brush up my artistic side is the most important”, he summed up when asked about what he needs to have success at the senior level.

Boyang Jin stood in fifth place after the short program to “Tango Amore”, mainly because he downgraded his combination to triple flip-double toe. In his long program to “Dragon Racing”, the 17-year-old outjumped everyone with his three quads (quad Salchow, quad toe with his hand down and quad toe-double toe) plus seven triples. He had almost 20 points more in the technical score than Uno (90.81 vs 71.33 points) but ten points less in the component score (66.04 vs 76.34), because his programs is rather empty. Jin achieved a personal best in the free with 156.85 points and overall 229.70 points. ”The second quad wasn’t so good, and I couldn’t do the combination as planned but then I was able to do it later. All the other things were quite good. For next year I want to improve my skating skills and my performance skills and my programs in general. I also need to be more consistent with my jumps. I don’t know yet whether I will move up to seniors or not, it hasn’t been decided yet”, the 2013 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final Champion said. It was Jin’s third appearance at Junior Worlds and his first medal.

Yamamoto surprisingly had won the bronze medal at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final, mainly because he suddenly started to land the triple Axel in competition. At Junior Worlds, he was only 7th in the short, because he underrotated the Axel and put his hand down and he also wobbled on the triple flip-triple toe. The 15-year-old from Nagoya fought back in his long to “Lorelei” by Naoki Sato and pulled off eight triples as well as excellent spins and footwork to rise to third with 215.45 points. Yamamoto debuted at Junior Worlds. “I was so nervous in the short program and after that I tried not to be so nervous and not so stiff. As a result, I had this (good) performance”, the Japanese skater analyzed. “This season I started to do the triple Axel in my programs. So next year I want to try to include a quad in my program and I also want to brush up the presentation part”, he continued.

Nathan Chen has had a tough season and was handicapped by an ankle injury from the very beginning. The 2014 World Junior bronze medalist was able to compete only in one Junior Grand Prix (he finished second in Zagreb) and came in 8th at the U.S. Nationals. He and his coach Rafael Arutunian took the decision to go to Junior Worlds just a few days before he left and even at Junior Worlds still needed medication. Chen looked somewhat cautious in his Michael Jackson short program and fell on the triple Axel. He was ranked 9th. Skating to Chopin’s “Piano Concerto No. 1”, the 15-year-old stumbled badly out of his first quad toe but went for another one right away and landed a shaky quad-double. Six triples followed (but no Axel) and he moved up to fourth with 213.85 points. Chen didn’t expect to be on the podium and overall still was pleased with what he did. “I wasn’t even sure if I was going to come. This whole past week I’ve been in between withdrawing and skating. I think that being able to skate was a good thing”, the American commented. His next plans include resting and fully recovering from his injury.

Adian Pitkeev produced a solid short program to finish second in this segment, but he had a few problems with his spins that looked labored. Because of back pain, the 16-year-old didn’t really train the spins. In the long program, there were other issues. The 2014 World Junior silver medalist missed his quad toe and singles an Axel, later also doubled a Salchow and slipped to fifth (210.71 points). He didn’t look for excuses. “It’s not about the back. I was ready. I really wanted it. I just need to get more experience and we will work”, he told the press.

Teammate Alexander Petrov had a similar experience – sitting in third after a good short program, the 15-year-old dropped to sixth when he crashed on a triple Axel and a triple Lutz (206.23 points). “I can’t explain it. I pulled myself together for the end of the program, but I didn’t have enough strength for the whole program. I don’t know what happened and why the last competitions of the season don’t work. I am disappointed”, the skater from St. Petersburg noted.

Deniss Vassilijevs of Latvia was a little star of the competition, although he finished in 7th and doesn’t yet have a triple Axel or quad toe in his arsenal. But the outgoing 15-year-old sells his programs, shows off original spins and excellent transitions. Hi short was clean with triple flip-triple toe, double Axel and triple Lutz and the audience fell in love with him. Deniss landed six triples including a triple Salchow-single loop-triple Salchow in his free to “Adagio for Tron” by Daft Punk. As the Latvian boy was so popular, he was invited to the exhibition gala.

Israel’s Daniel Samohin is a powerful young skater and nailed a quad-triple toe in the long program but made errors on some other jumps to place 8th. Jin Seo Kim of Korea had a good short program and was ranked fourth, but some jumps were shaky and he popped a loop in the long to drop to 9th. The youngest competitor in the event, Andrew Torgashev (USA), had a successful Junior Worlds debut. Like Vassiljievs, he has no triple Axel ready yet, but earns many points for his strong components. He came in 10th. Denis Margalik, who represents Argentina but grew up in Canada, also could be happy with solid performances and 12th place. Rather disappointing was the event for Alexander Samarin (Russia, 11th) and Roman Sadovsky (Canada, 14th). The second Canadian, Nicolas Nadeau, missed the cut for the Final, as did Frenchman Simon Hocquaux. Instead, a skater from Malaysia made it, Julian Zhi Jie Yee. He even has a triple Axel (19th).