Figure Skating

Yuma Kagiyama, Mana Kawabe win short programs at Japan Junior Championships

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Heavy favorite Yuma Kagiyama took the lead after the short program at the Japan Junior Championships at Shin-Yokohama Skate Center on Saturday night.

The 16-year-old from Yokohama racked up a total score of 79.92 points to hold a comfortable advantage over Yuto Kishina (74.29) and rival Shun Sato (74.19) going into Sunday’s free skate.

Kagiyama, who along with Sato has qualified for next month’s Grand Prix Final in Italy, skated to the Piano Concerto from “Fate” and aside from a bit of a wobble on the landing of his triple axel, was fluid from beginning to end.

“I turned my shoulder too much on my takeoff on the axel,” Kagiyama stated. “I have to fix that for tomorrow and then land all of my quads.”

Kagiyama holds the big lead despite getting level threes on two of his spins and step sequence.

Kishina’s jumps were solid, but he had trouble on one of his spins or would have had a higher score skating as the 28th of 29 skaters.

Sato, a 15-year-old from Sendai, moved clinically through his jumps to “Arrivee des Camionneurs” to stay within striking distance of Kagiyama.

“I have three quads planned in my free skate tomorrow and my goal is to land them all,” commented Sato.

Sato got level fours on two of his spins, but only a level two on his step sequence.

A berth at the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland, in January will go to the winner on Sunday.

Lucas Honda is a surprise in fourth place at 74.14. Sena Miyake (70.53) is fifth, while defending champion Tatsuya Tsuboi (68.83) stands in sixth.

Mana Kawabe took the lead after the women’s short program earlier Saturday with her perky skate to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Kawabe, who won the West Japan Sectionals two weeks ago, earned a score of 64.95 and looked confident in doing so.

Kawabe, a 15-year-old from Nagoya, began with a nice triple lutz/triple toe loop combo, then hit a triple loop and a double axel. She received level fours on two of her spins and a level three on her step sequence.

Tomoe Kawabata (63.55) is in second, while Rino Matsuike (61.91) is third.

“My speed was good today,” Kawabe stated. “When my jumps go well, my steps and spins usually do also.”

Kawabata, who was third at this event last year, landed huge jumps in her skate to “On the Beautiful Blue Danube.” She opened with a nice double axel, then hit a booming triple lutz/triple toe loop combo and also landed a triple loop.

Shiika Yoshioka (60.78) is in fourth place, with Azusa Tanaka (58.58) fifth and Moa Iwano (58.31) sixth.

The top six finishers in the men’s and women’s competitions will advance to skate in the All-Japan Championships next month in Tokyo.

Ice shavings

Two-time world champion Miki Ando, who won the Japan junior title three times (2002, 2003, 2004), was one of the spectators on hand Saturday.