Figure Skating | ICE TIME

Yuma Kagiyama looks to continue father's legacy

by Jack Gallagher

The sports landscape is filled with sons of famous fathers who could not live up to the family name. Many have tried to emulate success in the same sport, but were unable to approach their dad’s greatness.

Yuma Kagiyama, the son of two-time Olympian Masakazu Kagiyama, has the potential to successfully follow in his father’s footsteps. The 16-year-old is entering his second season on the Junior Grand Prix circuit and already is a polished skater both technically and artistically.

Yuma won the Kanto Summer Trophy on Sunday in convincing fashion in a final warm-up before his trip to Courchevel, France, next week for the season-opening JGP. With a winning total score of 230.41 points, Kagiyama easily outdistanced quad specialist Shun Sato (222.10) at Saitama Ice Arena, his rival’s home rink.

It wasn’t just the margin of the triumph that resonated, it was the flair that Kagiyama displayed in the victory. Opening his free skate to music from the movie “Tucker,” he landed a nice quad toe loop, then a fine triple flip, going on to hit eight triples on the way to victory.

Kagiyama, who trains under his 48-year-old father at the Bank of Yokohama Ice Arena, was pleased with his performance on Sunday.

“I’m satisfied with both my short and free,” Kagiyama stated. “My quad was good. I was not sure about it, but I spoke to my father during the six-minute warmup and he encouraged me, saying, ‘You can do it. You can do it.’ ”

The native of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, has a solid relationship with his dad, who was a three-time Japan champion and represented the Hinomaru at the 1992 Albertville Games (where he was 13th) and the 1994 Lillehammer Games (where he came in 12th).

“I respect my father as a skater. He is also a good father,” Kagiyama commented. “Expression is my strength. My jumps are not as good as my expression.”

Despite that proclamation, Kagiyama believes that the quality of his quads is improving.

“This season I have good balance on my quad jumps,” Kagiyama noted. “I want everybody to look at my expression and quad jumps this season.”

Kagiyama, who finished second and fourth at his two JGPs last season, made his goal for this season’s competition very clear.

“I think I can be the winner,” Kagiyama said. “I want to be the champion.”

When asked about current skaters he admires, Kagiyama cited Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno and two-time world champion Nathan Chen.

“Shoma has everything — spins, jumps, expression,” Kagiyama commented. “Nathan is good at dancing. I have learned how to do it from him.”

Following the JGP campaign, Kagiyama is aiming even higher.

“My goal this season is to win the Japan Junior Championships,” Kagiyama remarked. “Then I can go to the world junior championships and the Youth Olympic Games.”

Kagiyama’s short program this season is a song from the movie “Castle of Sand.” He said the music for both programs was selected by his choreographer Misao Sato.

The teen, who was fifth at last season’s Japan Junior Championships, described his programs to media at last month’s national team junior training camp at Chukyo University.

“The short gets more exciting toward the end and it has a lot of steps and that’s what I want the audience to see,” Kagiyama said. “For the free, there is a lot of dance, so the whole thing is the highlight. I hope the audience enjoys it with me.”

Kagiyama, who won both the short and free in Saitama, mentioned that he will be working on enhancing the jumps for his programs as the season progresses.

“I have not included it in the performance, but I am working on a quad salchow along with a quad/triple combination jump,” Kagiyama stated.

Kagiyama admitted including more quads will be a challenge for him.

“Adding quad jumps will be tough physically, so I will have to build my body,” Kagiyama commented. “I’m hoping to add two quad jumps by the end of the season.”

Something else that comes across with Kagiyama is the maturity beyond his years that he exhibits.

“I was nervous with new challenges such as skating abroad last season,” Kagiyama confessed. “I was able to know what it feels like to skate overseas. I hope to utilize the experience this season.”

Kagiyama, who came in a very respectable sixth place at last season’s senior nationals, feels he has a way to go to be able to compete with the likes of Yuzuru Hanyu, Uno and Chen.

“Compared with the seniors, I am not as good as them,” the 158-cm Kagiyama analyzed. “I hope to be at the same level soon. They largely rely on their bodies, but I can only make small moves, so I will practice and hope to be able to skate like them.”

Sato settles for second

Despite coming in second behind Kagiyama, Sato expressed contentment with his showing at the preseason competition on Sunday.

“This is my first event of the season,” Sato stated. “I was satisfied with both my short and free. I think I did a good job, so I am satisfied.”

Sato gave a quick review of both of his programs.

“In the short I was able to skate freely, including the five components,” Sato commented. “The free was kind of difficult physically. It was tough to focus.”

The 15-year-old feels like he is on the right track as his first JGP season approaches.

“I found out what I need to work on,” Sato said. “I need to my practice more. I need to get stronger.”

Yoshioka a surprise winner

Shiika Yoshioka, a 16-year-old from Chiba, won the junior women’s event at the Kanto Summer Trophy. Yoshioka took the title with a tally of 169.26, ahead of Tomoe Kawabata (161.69) who was second.

Yoshioka, who earned a bronze medal at the JGP in Austria last season, did not make the cut for the circuit this time around. She won in Saitama despite several under-rotations in her free skate.

“I’m happy that I won and performed well in the short program,” Yoshioka stated. “But I made mistakes, like under-rotated jumps on my protocol, so I want to improve it for the Kanto regionals.”

Yoshioka said her goal for the season is to be more consistent all the way through it.

“At the beginning of last season, I performed well overall but I couldn’t keep it up in the second half, so I hope to adjust at every event,” Yoshioka declared.

When asked which skater she most looks up to, Yoshioka picked four-time national champion Satoko Miyahara.

“I admire that she doesn’t make mistakes,” Yoshioka commented.

Kawabata bemoaned her showing in the short program, but was happy with the free skate (which she won).

“I wanted to win short but I fell (on her triple lutz/triple toe loop combo), so it’s frustrating,” Kawabata said. “But I was able to hold myself together in free so it was good result.”

Kawabata pledged to concentrate on her technique ahead of next week’s JGP in France.

“I have a lot of things to work on such as jumps, spins and steps, so I want to perfect them in practices so I can focus when I’m skating at the event,” Kawabata stated.

Watanabe does it again

Eight-time Japan champion Emi Watanabe has once again shown that she is proficient at more than skating. The 1979 world bronze medalist recorded a hole-in-one for the second straight year during a round of golf last week in Hokkaido.

Playing with fellow Olympian Takahiko Kozuka at the Sapporo Katsura Country Club on Aug. 6, Watanabe aced the 108-yard fifth hole with a 7 iron.

Watanabe was in Sapporo for the 11th edition of her annual skating school. She instructs 300 new skaters each year and really went all out this time around, inviting soprano Norie Suzuki to sing from center ice while the kids skated around Tsukisamu Gymnasium.

Working with Shoma

Legendary choreographer David Wilson is in Japan now working with Uno on his free skate for the coming season. Wilson will be in the country until this weekend when he returns to Toronto to begin work on the “Battle of the Blades” show for Canadian TV.

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