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Mitsuki Sumoto looks strong with silver medal at Slovakia JGP

by Jack Gallagher

Junior Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Mitsuki Sumoto started the JGP season in fine fashion by taking home the silver medal at the season opener in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Saturday.

Canadian phenom Stephen Gogolev, a 13-year-old from Toronto who is coached by Brian Orser, won the event in his JGP debut with 226.63 points. Sumoto took second on 210.31.

Sumoto, a 17-year-old from Izumiotsu, Osaka Prefecture, was Japan’s junior champion last season. The decision to have him skate a fourth year in the juniors was likely predicated by the fact that with Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno and Kazuki Tomono giving Japan a strong team in seniors, there was no need for Sumoto to move up yet.

Sumoto stepped out of his opening triple axel in his short program to “Tosca,” but recovered to put together a solid effort and was second heading into the free skate.

“He might be disappointed with the turn on the triple axel, but all the other elements very well done,” commented ISU announcer Ted Barton on the livestream of the event on YouTube. “He carries good speed and flow into and especially out of all the elements.”

Barton feels Sumoto needs to focus on his spins going forward.

“A little slow on some of the spins,” Barton noted. “Needs a bit of work perhaps in that area. I felt he really improved his skating skills, his posture, acceleration. Better than last year.”

Sumoto’s free skate to “Il Postino” and “Mi Mancherai” was sublime.

“That was perhaps the most mature performance of the day,” Barton said in his analysis. “Just beautiful skating skills. Great edges, soft knees. He accelerates with each edge every time he bends that knee on a tight curve. He just gains speed.

“This is what one would qualify as top quality skating in the junior ranks,” added Barton on Sumoto’s free skate. “Beautifully done. He has some sensitivity as he performed to the music. He gained momentum and confidence as the program progressed.”

Sumoto won the JGP in Latvia last season and went on to take the bronze medal at the JGP Final in Nagoya.

Kawabata impresses in debut

Tomoe Kawabata, a 16-year-old from Aichi Prefecture, came in a respectable fifth place in her JGP debut behind winner Anna Shcherbakova (205.39) of Russia. Kawabata’s total score was 173.84.

Kawabata, who trains under Nakako Tsuzuki at Yokohama Bank Ice Arena, burst onto the scene last season with a sixth-place showing at the Japan Junior Championships. She impressed again last week with her huge jumps and rotational velocity.

Kawabata, who left the Japan junior camp in Nagoya early last month due to illness, was fifth in both the short program and free skate in Slovakia.

“Really lovely movement. Full reach of her movement in the choreography,” Barton stated after Kawabata’s short program to “Sheherazade.”

“Explosive off the ice as she jumps,” Barton commented. “She gets great height on the jumps. Beautiful expression on her face of calmness. Even when perhaps on the inside it is not so calm.”

Barton made it clear that he believes Kawabata has big potential and Ice Time agrees.

“This young lady has all the ingredients — power, speed, passion. She is light on her feet,” Barton said. “A great future in front of her.”

Kawabata’s free skate to “Piano Concerto in F” earned more plaudits from Barton.

“What a dynamic performer. My gosh,” stated Barton. “A couple of little mistakes in the program. Full of content. But the power of her performance. This is going to be fun to watch over the next years.

“Look at the height on that. Perfect,” Barton commented on Kawabata’s opening triple lutz/triple toe loop combination. “What a start.”

Kawabata slipped on her double axel and stepped out on her triple salchow, but even that could not dim Barton’s view.

“What a terrific performer. Outstanding program,” Barton concluded.

Yokoi squanders chance

Yuhana Yokoi (173.15) was a disappointing sixth despite putting together an outstanding free skate as she started her third season in the JGP.

Yokoi struggled in her short program to “The Lion King” and was in ninth going into the free skate. It’s a pity because she would have had a legitimate shot at the podium if she had skated cleanly.

Yokoi stepped out on her opening triple flip after over-rotating it, then fell on the back end of her planned triple lutz/triple toe loop combo near the end of her program.

“That fall was costly,” Barton noted. “Not the skate she was hoping for, but a good skater.”

Performing to “Phantom of the Opera” in the free skate, Yokoi was outstanding in finishing second behind Shcherbakova. Yokoi wept after finishing, likely relieved after her calamitous short program.

“Those are tears of joy for something she just produced for all of us to enjoy,” Barton commented. “Simply wonderful. Passionate and powerful. Full of speed, full of commitment. This was a special performance indeed.”

This is an important season for Yokoi, as she really needs to show she belongs in the senior ranks next season where the competition will be significantly tougher with the likes of Satoko Miyahara, Kaori Sakamoto, Mai Mihara and Rika Kihira.

Austria JGP up next

Riko Takino, Shiika Yoshioka and Koshiro Shimada will represent Japan at the JGP in Linz, Austria, this week.

Takino, a 16-year-old from Osaka, was impressive last season in finishing third and fifth at her two JGPs.

Yoshioka, a 15-year-old from Chiba, was fourth at the Asian Open Trophy earlier this month. She will be making her JGP debut.

Shimada, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, is competing in his fourth season on the JGP circuit. The native of Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, placed fifth and seventh in his two JGPs last season.

Takahashi looking good

Choreographer David Wilson had high praise for Daisuke Takahashi, who is returning to competition following a four-year retirement, after working with him in Toronto last month on his new short program “The Sheltering Sky.”

“It went really well and he’s more amazing than ever,” Wilson wrote in an email to Ice Time. “You can really see the increased maturity in his skating. It was so much fun and inspiring for me to work with him again. He’s just the coolest guy in skating!!!”

Summer sojourn

While the ice at Kansai University rink was undergoing its annual summer refurbishment this month, the teams of coaches Mie Hamada and Utako Nagamitsu relocated to continue their training.

Hamada took her team of Satoko Miyahara, Yuna Shiraiwa and Rika Kihira to Switzerland to work with Stephane Lambiel, while Nagamitsu’s squad went to Tomakomai, Hokkaido, for a 10-day camp.

Trusova talks quads

Alexandra Trusova, the reigning world junior champion, put on quite a show at Russia’s junior test skate earlier this month. The 14-year-old landed a quad lutz, quad toe loop and quad salchow in the same program.

She spoke about it later in a video interview that was translated and posted on fs-gossips.com. Here are some of the questions and her responses:

Tell us when did you start working on the quads and how difficult it was?

“I started working on the quad salchow last year in April, jumped it, then we had vacation, then the beginning of the season, then I jumped it at the JGP in Australia, but under-rotated. I did it cleanly only at the Russian Cup Final and at the world junior championships. I started working on a quad toe loop after the Grand Prix Final, jumped it and also did it at the world championships. I started working on lutz after the world championships and jumped it in April-May.”

What do you feel, what motivates you when you learn new quadruple jumps?

“I really want to do something that no one has done before and every time I want more and more. So I learn new quads and they work out and I like it.”

Don’t you ever fear when you start learning quadruple jumps?

“No, I do not feel fear, on the contrary, I really want to. If you are afraid, you will never jump. You can’t do it this way. On the contrary, it is necessary to go very decisively and jump.”