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Shoma Uno, Satoko Miyahara score big victories in season debuts

by Jack Gallagher

World and Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno and world bronze medalist Satoko Miyahara began their seasons with victories in decisive fashion at the Lombardia Trophy and U.S. International Classic, respectively, on Saturday.

Uno won in Bergamo, Italy, with a total score of 276.20 points, while Miyahara topped the podium in Salt Lake City on 201.23.

Uno finished ahead of Russia’s Dmitri Aliev (250.55) and Andrei Lazukin (243.45), while Miyahara beat out South Korea’s Lim Eun-soo (187.30) and Kim Ye-lim (176.65).

Both Uno and Miyahara had some jump issues, but that is to be expected this early in the long season. Their programs were solid and received praise within the skating community.

Uno under-rotated his quadruple flip and fell on his first triple axel in the free skate, but still put on an impressive performance to claim the Lombardia Trophy for the third straight year.

“Both programs are fantastic,” said Canadian Mary-Margaret Mirtsos on Sunday on the weekly “Flutzes and Waxels” podcast she does with sister Alicia about Uno’s new programs.

“Shoma Uno’s free skate (“Moonlight Sonata”) is amazingly paced. It goes nice and slow for the first half and he is putting in lots of jumps, but he is able to be sort of patient in between them,” continued Mary-Margaret.

“He has a gigantic spread eagle, halfway around the rink, in this free skate, which has had 30 seconds taken off the usual length of time. I was kind of amazed by how well it was put together.”

Miyahara under-rotated both ends of her opening triple lutz/triple toe loop combination and her triple flip in her short program to “Song For The Little Sparrow,” but her elegance and sublime transitions were what resonated.

“We are big fans of Satoko Miyahara,” stated Mary-Margaret. “These programs are so fantastic. She had some issues at the start of the free skate. She had three under-rotations in the short program. I don’t care.”

“I could not care less if she under-rotates every single one of her jumps,” added Alicia. “She is our tiny, tiny queen and we love her,” added Alicia.

“The programs are just so different, but both of them suit her so well,” commented Mary-Margaret. “She pays attention to every singe detail. The spins are always fantastic. The step sequence is always amazing.

“Even though her jumps are tiny, she still rotates nice and fast and lands them with a flourish.”

Miyahara’s free skate to an Astor Piazzolla medley began inauspiciously as she doubled her planned opening triple salchow, then fell on her triple lutz. The 20-year-old recovered, however, and skated nearly flawlessly the rest of the way.

Yuna Shiraiwa (170.74) finished fifth in Utah despite under-rotating six different jumps in her free skate.

Yamashita on podium again

Mako Yamashita continued her fine run of medal finishes with a third-place showing at Lombardia. The 15-year-old from Nagoya, skating in her first season as a senior, made the podium for the seventh time in eight international competitions over the past three seasons.

Yamashita’s consistently fine performances can be attributed to her strong fundamentals and how she never incurs a complete meltdown of a program.

She joined Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (206.07), the 2015 world champion, and Sofia Samodurova (184.82) on the podium.

Both Mirtsos sisters did not like the vocals in Yamashita’s short program to “Una Voce Poco Fa” and expressed concerns that the distracting voice of the singer could impact her negatively with the judges.

They were in agreement, however, that her free skate was impressive.

“The free skate (“Madame Butterfly”) is a very well-constructed program for her and suits her,” said Mary-Margaret. “I do kind of wonder, with a different short program, where she would be.”

“I’m a big fan of her free skate, which kind of makes it (her short program music) worse,” stated Alicia.

Kaori Sakamoto (180.85) stormed back from ninth place after the short program to finish fourth behind Yamashita.

Hanyu back in action

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu returns to competition for the first time since the Pyeongchang Olympics this week at the Challenger Series Autumn Classic International in Oakville, Ontario.

Hanyu, now fully recovered from the right ankle injury that caused him to miss nearly three months last season, will be the prohibitive favorite against a field that includes training partners Jason Brown of the U.S. and South Korea’s Cha Jun-hwan.

World silver medalist Wakaba Higuchi and Yura Matsuda will represent Japan in the women’s field that features two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva and American Bradie Tennell.

In the other Challenger Series event this week, the Ondrej Nepela Trophy in Bratislava, Slovakia, Keiji Tanaka will make his season debut, while Rika Kihira and Rin Nitaya will skate in the women’s competition.

Great start for Sumiyoshi

Rion Sumiyoshi, a 15-year-old from Tokyo, captured the bronze medal in her Junior Grand Prix debut in Richmond, British Columbia, on Friday with a fantastic free skate.

Sumiyoshi (174.96) rallied from seventh after the short program to make the podium behind Russia’s Anna Shcherbakova (195.56) and Anastasia Tarakanova (190.69). Shcherbakova clinched a spot in the JGP Final with her second win of the season.

Sumiyoshi, who is coached by Koji Okajima, opened with a beautiful triple flip/triple loop combo in her free skate to “Black Swan” and exuded maturity from start to finish. She received a very nice ovation from the crowd afterward.

“Wow. What a great performance by Rion,” stated ISU announcer Ted Barton on the YouTube webcast of the event after Sumiyoshi’s free skate. “Just packed with difficulty and quality. Fast, powerful, petite.”

American Tomoki Hiwatashi, who competed in the men’s competition, also had praise for Sumiyoshi.

“I think she did great!” wrote Hiwatashi in an email to Ice Time. “I loved her triple flip/triple loop.”

Hiwatashi settles for silver

Hiwatashi (213.24), an 18-year-old from Hoffman Estates, Illinois, was first in the short program and second in the free skate, to take second overall behind Russia’s Petr Gumennik (220.04).

“That was a solid skate by Tomoki. He was right on his game tonight,” commented Barton after Hiwatashi’s short program to “Cry Me A River.” “He’s like a cat. He knows where the ice is coming back down whether the jump goes too high or not high enough. Just aware and alert.

“He changes direction very quickly. He is very agile on his feet, solid edges and musical,” added Barton.

“I am OK with the results. I think I have done my best and I think it was a program that I expected it to be,” Hiwatashi wrote about his own performance. “But, I think I still have lots to work on. I need to work on consistency of my jumps and I will need to work more on the landing. There was some jumps that I felt like I could’ve landed better, so my next goal for the next competition is to do better landings on the jumps.”

Yuma Kagiyama, a 15-year-old from Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, placed fourth (194.73) after coming in second in the short program.

JGP reaches halfway mark

The JGP has reached the midway point of the eight-city circuit and will take a break this week before resuming in Ostrava, Czech Republic (Sept. 26-29) next week.