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Uno favored to take title at Skate America

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Shoma Uno, the bronze medalist at last year’s Grand Prix Final, will make his GP season debut at Skate America in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, this week where he will take on a field headed by rising Chinese star Jin Boyang.

Uno, who won his Challenger Series event (Lombardia Trophy) last month in Italy, is tapped by many skating analysts to have another breakout campaign after his debut in the senior ranks last season.

The 18-year-old Nagoya native is quietly building a following within the skating community while competing in the shadow of his more famous compatriot, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Uno was the world junior champion in 2015 and has been second behind Hanyu at the last two Japan national championships. The diminutive Uno raised his profile significantly back in April at the inaugural Team Challenge Cup in Spokane, Washington, when he became the first skater ever to cleanly execute a quadruple flip in competition.

In addition to Jin, Uno will compete against American Jason Brown and teammate Daisuke Murakami in the 11-skater lineup. Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan was scheduled to participate, but withdrew on Monday.

Rockerskating.com, a site that heavily covers skating, has high praise for Uno and installed him as the favorite in its Skate America preview.

“Defeating Javier Fernandez is no easy feat, but Uno did just that at the free-skate-only Japan Open to start off October,” the website writes. “With quad flip in tow, Uno comes into Skate America as the clear favorite, with a slight change in technique on his landings that make his jumps look smoother than ever.”

Ice Time sees the event as a two-horse race between Uno and Jin. While Jin is an incredible jumper, he still lacks the polish of Uno.

The women’s field at Skate America features three-time world champion Mao Asada, world silver medalist Ashley Wagner and two-time U.S. champion Gracie Gold, along with Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia.

Mai Mihara, a 17-year-old from Kobe, who won her Challenger Series event (Nebelhorn Trophy) last month, and 2014 Olympian Kanako Murakami will join Mao in the lineup.

Based on her fine results last season, Wagner would have to be considered the favorite going in, but depending on what Mao decides to do with the triple axel, she could also walk away the winner.

Mao didn’t use the triple axel at the Finlandia Trophy earlier this month and easily took second behind Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond. Her coach Nobuo Sato attributed this decision in part to a left knee injury that Mao was still nursing from last season.

The dilemma for Mao is whether to risk using the triple axel and possibly end up with a poor result that could jeopardize her chance at making the GP Final this season, or play it safe with the double axel.

Based on what happened in Finland, Ice Time believes Mao is better off sticking with the double axel and getting her GP season off to a solid start, than chancing disaster with the triple axel.

Growing legacy: It is always interesting in life to see how in retrospect certain individuals are regarded after their time in the spotlight has ended.

Athletes, artists, authors, actors and politicians are often viewed differently with the passage of time. Some are more highly thought of after they have stepped out of the arena, than when they were in it.

Ice Time came across something very interesting along these lines recently. It was a retrospective on 2010 world champion Daisuke Takahashi put together by a skating fan in Romania who chronicled the top 10 competitive programs of his career. Use Your Illusion (iguana012.tumblr.com) is the name of the site and it provides links to all of the programs listed in its “skating reviews” section.

The Okayama native, who was the 2002 world junior champion, retired from competition after finishing sixth at the Sochi Olympics while skating with a leg injury. Takahashi bowed out having enjoyed a long and successful career.

Now there is no question that Takahashi was highly regarded by fans and those in the skating world while he was active, but as time goes on the beautiful artistry that he exhibited on the ice is gaining greater recognition.

Use Your Illusion rated Takahashi’s top 10 programs as follows:

1. “In The Garden of Souls” (2011-12 short program).

2. “La Strada” (2009-10 free skate).

3. “Blues for Klook” (2011-12 free skate).

4. “Swan Lake Hip-Hop” (2007-08 short program).

5. “Eye” (2009-10 short program).

6. “Sonatina for Violin in C-sharp minor” (2013-14 short program).

7. “Beatles Medley” (2013-14 free skate).

8. “El Tango de Roxanne” (2006-07 short program).

9. “Historia de un Amor/Que Rico El Mambo” (2010-11 short program).

10. “Invierno Porteno/Primavera Portena” (2010-11 free skate).

A significant review of each program is listed on the site, along with a photo from that performance. It is a very creative way to salute a skater who made a profound impact on those who watch the sport.

Shoma Uno is one skater who lists Takahashi as his idol.

Ice Time can recall being contacted by fans who said they bought tickets to multiple show performances over multiple days by Takahashi. That is how intense of a following he had at his peak.

The site’s creator, Ioana, refers to herself as an “average 25-year-old girl from Romania” who is “mostly introverted with a lame sense of humor.”

Ice Time recommends all skating fans check out this excellent compilation from the career of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic bronze medalist. It will be well worth your while.