The men’s competition at the NHK Trophy 2020 in Osaka had a mixed level with only the winner giving world-class performances. 17-year-old Yuma Kagiyama, second at Junior Worlds 2020 in Tallinn and third at the Four Continents Championships 2020, made a spectacular senior debut and won the Trophy with 275.87 points, 49 points ahead of the rest of the field.
The athlete, from Yokohama, trains with his father Masukazu Kagiyama and Torontonian Lori Nichol is his choreographer. He opened his short program to “Vocussion“ by Yo-yo Ma & The Silkroad Ensemble with a very good combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop, followed by an outstanding quad toe loop. His spins and steps were excellent as well, but he singled the Axel which was planned triple. His components had an average of 8.0.
Later he commented, “In the first half of the program I did the way I practiced and I thought I was going to have a clean performance. But then I got a little tired in the second half and popped the Axel. I hated that,” the ISU World Junior silver medalist commented. “The usual 1,2,3 was a bit prolonged and I over-rotated at an early stage. My axis was off. I always check my position including the shoulder position. After the mistake in the triple Axel, I was able to change my mindset because I knew I shouldn’t be affected and lose points on spin and steps.”
The music for his new free program is taken from the soundtrack of “Avatar“ by James Horner. His first element was an outstanding quad Salchow, followed by a very good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop. After an excellent triple flip (which is planned quadruple soon) he performed another quad toe loop and four other triple jumps, including two triple Axel, one of them in a sequence with an Euler and a triple Salchow in the second half. Spins and steps were excellent as well and his components reached around 8.3.
He said, “This was my first big senior competition and being in first place really builds my confidence. My coach and father told me to go into the competition like into a practice. He said `You are a challenger so challenge the field to the end.‘ The program was not perfect yet because in the Lutz-loop combination I popped the second jump. I am very happy to be able to compete in front of fans in the rink again after a long time. I like and I need support from the public. It’s not only the jumps which count, it’s also the expression. Therefore I wanted to try to adapt my expression to the music and feel the music. I jumped better than in practice, but I am nevertheless surprised about the many points.”
Kazuki Tomono of Osaka had been fifth at Worlds 2018 and 7th at Four Continents 2020. He won the silver medal with 226.62 points. In the short to the music “Chrome 3 – The Hardest Button to Button“, he overturned the quad toe loop, but could add a double toe loop. The quad Salchow and the triple Axel were good, the three spins had a level 4 and the step sequence was excellent. His components were around 7.6.
“I was very happy to perform in front of a public again," he said. "I think I lost speed and was a somewhat hesitant in the first half, but then I calmed myself down in the second half. The timing was off in my first jump, but after that I calmed down. I think I did well with the step sequence and the artistic impression. I felt that last season, my short program was not 100 per cent and I wanted to make sure to refine it. Therefore, I decided to keep it. But I decided to show more power of my body. Therefore I wore a new and darker costume which shows my body line stronger.“
His free program to “Moulin Rouge“ was quite expressive. He popped the first toe loop jump which was planned quadruple, but his second element, a combination of quad Salchow and double toe loop was good again. His second quad Salchow was shaky, but three clean triple jumps came later, among them a triple Axel. On the other hand he singled an Axel and doubled two more jumps. Two spins were good, but one only had the basic level. He performed only the third-best free free program but could keep the second overall position. He explained, “The practice and the warm up felt good, but at the end I was not aggressive enough. I was too careful and jumps ended up as doubles. I need to trust my training more. I want to be more confident and for that I need to train harder.”
18-year-old Lucas Tsuyoshi Honda gave his senior debut with a bronze medal and 217.56 points. Skating to “S.O.S. d’un terrier en détresse“ he began his short program with a very good triple Axel, followed by a combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, in which the flip was near an edge call. His triple Lutz was almost clean, the spins were good and the step sequence very good. “I was surprised to get such high marks because I skated first in the second group,“ he commented. “Overall this was a good program for me and I could combine the elements well.“
In the free to the soundrack of “James Bond – 007“, he popped the first Axel, but added a shaky second one. The loop was only double, but later he added six good triple jumps (no Axel). Spins and steps were good, but not special. He skated only the six-best free program, but could keep the third overall place. “I was surprised I was third yesterday and today I knew that if I am in first after my performance, I would make the podium. My free was not that great but I was surprised again. I didn’t really worry about the placement today. I just wanted take in the atmosphere here with the audience. Of course if I can land quads in practice, I want to try them in the program soon.”
Like often in the past, 26-year-old Keiji Tanaka of Nishinomiya did not win a medal because he ”forgot” some turns in his jumps. This time he finished fourth with 215.52 points. He has been at three world championships, but never better than 13th place (in 2018). He is coached by renowned Utako Nagamitsu and Massimo Scali, an Italian choreographer who lives in the San Francisco area, made his programs. In the short program to ”Hip Hip, Chin Chin” by the German group Club des Belugas he hardly could avoid a fall on the quad Salchow. The triple Axel was very good, but his combination only double flip and triple toe loop. He said, ”It has been some time since I did the quad and there’s room for another. I was hesitant a bit and took too long before the take off. But I should never forget to be grateful for being able to skate amid this crisis. Stamina has been a challenge, but if I miss a jump, I know it takes a toll.”
Tanaka opened his free to the soundtrack of “Sherlock Holmes“, with a very good triple Salchow, and then landed a good quad Salchow with a double toe loop. He added three more triples, but singled the two Axels. “I landed one quad, so it was a step forward from yesterday. Missing the Axels is a terrible outcome. I popped the Axels and the coaches said the back outside edge going into takeoff was a bit weak. After my injury, this was my third competition and it didn’t worsen, I am actually starting to feel better.”
Shun Sato of Saitama near Tokyo, where the World Championships have been held twice and is planned again for 2023, placed fifth with 214.75 points. In the combination of the short, he performed a shaky quad toe loop and could add only a single toe, which is not allowed and therefore got GOEs of -5, and he almost fell on the quad Lutz.
”I was jumping too much in the warm-up, and it showed in the performance,” he said. In the free he showed two good quad toe loops, but missed two other jumps. 16-year-old Kao Miura from Yokohama is sixth with 210.53 points. After a very good quad toe loop in the short, he missed his combination and also a spin. ” It was fun and a great experience to be in my first senior event.” In the second-best free program of the competition, he popped the first toe loop, but added two excellent and one shaky other quad jump. Three more jumps were not clean. ”I had fun and want to compete at more NHK Trophies in the future,” he said.
Yuto Kishina of Osaka placed seventh, earning 199.34 points. Two triples in the short program were not clean and three in the free. Sota Yamamoto takes eighth position with 190.19 points. He missed all three jumps in the short, and five in the free. Sena Miyake of Osaka finished ninth with 185.50 points after many mistakes. Junior Nozornu Yoshioka of Hyogo ended up tenth and last with 164.70 points. Mitsuki Yomoto withdrew due to injury.