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Yuto Kishina battles hard to earn first JGP medal of career

by Jack Gallagher

Yuto Kishina kept Japan’s medal streak alive in the Junior Grand Prix this season by bringing home the bronze at the Lithuania JGP in Kaunas on Saturday.

Kishina was third after the short program and fought hard to capture the first JGP medal of his career with a valiant effort in the free skate after a rough start.

American Andrew Torgashev won with a total score of 201.63 points, with Russia’s Kirill Iakovlev second on 199.01 and Kishina third with 191.80.

Kishina, a native of Asakuchi, Okayama Prefecture, is currently in his fourth JGP season. The 16-year-old skated to “Ameska” in the short program and looked sharp.

“Yuto has such smooth skating, powerful, he’s down in the knees,” ISU announcer Ted Barton commented on the YouTube webcast of the event. “Very smooth acceleration. He doesn’t look like he is working very hard, but he easily picks up momentum and speed and flow.”

Barton praised Kishina’s elevation on his triple flip and form on his triple lutz/triple toe loop combination jump.

“Good height. Right straight back up over the pick,” Barton analyzed on the replay of the triple flip.

“Nice and straight. Isn’t that beautiful,” Barton said on the combination. “Watch how close the feet are together. You tuck those feet in. Look how straight those feet are. They are just crossed.

“You need those feet to be tidy and tight like that in order to get fast rotation to complete it in enough time.”

Barton thinks Kishina’s combo spin needs some work, however.

“The combination spin was bit slow,” Barton noted. “He needs to speed that up a bit as he moves into seniors.”

Kishina competed to “The Untouchables” in his free skate and had an inauspicious beginning, touching the ice with his hand on his opening triple axel and then falling on his triple lutz.

“He’s on a big lean. Forward on the inside,” Barton said of the triple lutz. “Couldn’t get on top of the skate. Was out on the side.”

Barton was impressed with how Kishina persevered and didn’t give up after the difficult start.

“He had some challenges at the beginning of this program, but he really fought back and was not letting this podium go,” Barton stated. “He came back fighting like crazy, even at the last element, changing the program a little bit and doing a triple loop/triple toe. He was going for every point he could grab.”

Kishina’s late gambit proved fruitful, as he edged out Russia’s Egor Murashov (190.32) for the bronze by a narrow margin.

Iwano impresses again

Moa Iwano finished fifth (153.94) in the women’s event won by Russia’s world junior champion Alexandra Trusova (221.44) despite some jump struggles, but gained attention again for her musicality and spirit.

Iwano, a 14-year-old from Kobe, skated to “Asturia” in the short program and moved Barton with her flair and personality despite under-rotating her opening jump (a triple lutz) and not executing the triple toe loop that was to follow in combination.

“What a terrific performer. So in tune with the music, with both the intensity and the phrasing,” Barton stated. “Strong skater. Perfectly focused on every movement.

“Just really slow with the free leg,” Barton said of the triple lutz. “She was right on top of her landing foot. That was good. Free leg was just stuck in front, didn’t pull back.”

Barton was blown away by Iwano’s layback spin in the short program.

“How nice was this. Straight back, beautiful position, change of arms to the side,” Barton commented. “Haircutter, then up into the Biellmann. Reverse hand on the blade. Wow. What a skater.”

Iwano under-rotated both of her triple lutzes (falling hard on the first) in her free skate to “Jeux d’Eaux” and also the back end of her double axel/triple toe loop combo.

Despite this, Barton recognizes the same qualities others have spoken to Ice Time about Iwano.

“What a delightful young lady. This wasn’t easy because she had some mistakes,” Barton stated. “Even when things did not go well, she did not let go of the joy of skating. You saw that in every movement, in every facial expression.

“She has something that others do not have,” Barton continued. “When things go wrong, people lose their performance. She did not. She kept her performance all the way through regardless of what was happening with the elements.

“It was a struggle from a jump perspective, but she didn’t show a struggle in her performance. That is very surprising and mature at this stage of a young skater’s career.”

“My short program was not good,” Iwano wrote in an email to Ice Time on Tuesday. “But spins and steps were all level four. I’m so happy about that because it’s the first time for me.”

Iwano then addressed her free skate.

“I fell hard on the first triple lutz,” she noted. “I was a little surprised, but just thought about focusing on the program. I think I did my best.”

Time is still on Iwano’s side, but a date with a jump coach seems likely in the near future.

Anybody who is ready to give up on Iwano at this point might consider what a former Olympic skater told Ice Time after watching her last season.

“I think she can make Japan’s Olympic team someday.”

Miyake, Aoki set for Canada

The Junior Grand Prix moves to Richmond, British Columbia, this week for the fourth stop on the eight-city circuit.

Sena Miyake and Yuma Kagiyama will represent Japan in the men’s event, while Yuna Aoki and Rion Sumiyoshi will pull on the boots in the women’s competition.

Miyake, a 16-year-old from Yakage, Okayama Prefecture, is in his fourth season on the JGP.

Kagiyama, who is 15, won the Asian Open Trophy last month. He will be making his JGP debut in Canada. Kagiyama was born in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture.

Aoki, a 16-year-old from Yokohama, will be looking for her first podium finish in her third JGP season.

Sumiyoshi, a 15-year-old from Tokyo, will make her JGP debut in Richmond.

Uno, Miyahara back in action

This week the Challenger Series resumes with the Lombardia Trophy in Bergamo, Italy, and the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City.

Olympic and world silver medalist Shoma Uno will lead the field in Italy where he will be joined by compatriot Kazuki Tomono.

Kaori Sakamoto, who was sixth at the Pyeongchang Olympics, tops the women’s field. She will be joined in Bergamo by Mako Yamashita.

Satoko Miyahara headlines the entries in women’s competition in Utah, where training partner Yuna Shiraiwa will also skate.

Miyahara, the world bronze medalist last season, had one of the greatest fourth-place finishes in Olympic history in Pyeongchang with an absolutely sublime performance.

Hiroaki Sato will be Japan’s lone entry in the men’s field in Salt Lake City.