In the biggest competition of his career, Yuma Kagiyama rose to the occasion and gave the performance of his life on Sunday.
The 16-year-old star roared back from being seven points behind and in third place after the short program to win the gold medal at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland, with a total score of 239.17 points.
Kagiyama’s effort was a glorious one that defined everything beautiful that skating has to offer. He was technically sound and artistically brilliant. It truly was poetry in motion.
Kagiyama’s reaction when he realized he had won was absolutely priceless.
The Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” His point was that you make your own luck by working hard.
Kagiyama, who is based at the Yokohama Bank Ice Arena, has done exactly that. Impeccably trained by his father, the two-time Olympian Masakazu Kagiyama, the teen needed every bit of that training and drive instilled in him to prevail.
This was not a victory in a domestic event on home ice, but one accomplished at an international competition before a full house at the Lausanne Skating Arena. It wasn’t just that Kagiyama won, but how he won that resonated.
This season has gone very well for the Japan junior champion and senior bronze medalist at the Japan nationals. Something that emerged early on was that he had his free skate to “Tucker” down pat and could skate it nearly flawlessly.
That is exactly what he did on Sunday, landing a pair of quadruple toe loops along with six clean triples, and earning level fours on his spins and step sequence.
Kagiyama overtook Russia’s Andrei Mozalev (237.94) for the gold, with Mozalev’s compatriot Daniil Samsonov (215.21) taking the bronze.
“I’m super happy and this gives me strong confidence moving towards future tournaments,” Kagiyama stated after his victory. “Free skating is my favorite (program), so I didn’t feel any pressure. I was wondering how many points I could get, but I thought I could do my best. Beijing 2022 is the target for me right now.”
With two years to go until Beijing, Kagiyama is perfectly placed to earn a spot on the team. He is ascending and will continue to improve in the months leading up to the games in China.
Kagiyama gave Japan its second straight gold medal in men’s singles at the Winter Youth Olympics, with Sota Yamamoto having taking the title in 2016 in Lillehammer, Norway.
Shoma Uno captured the silver in the inaugural Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, back in 2012.
Announcer Chris Howarth, who called the event for the Olympic Channel, was mesmerized by Kagiyama’s effort with so much pressure on him.
“So much speed across the ice,” Howarth commented during Kagiyama’s free skate. “A super first half, but he has got to keep his focus going right to the end now. He can’t afford a mistake.”
It was clear that Kagiyama was getting stronger as the program went on, and Howarth took note of this.
“That’s a glorious piece of footwork,” Howarth remarked after Kagiyama’s step sequence. “He is flying around the ice!”
Howarth praised Kagiyama’s fortitude with so much on the line.
“He gave it his best shot. That triple axel, right at the end of the program, showed the courage of the guy,” Howarth said. “He moved stuff around to try to get the extra points. Absolutely brilliant. He’s got nerves of steel!”
As Howarth reviewed Kagiyama’s elements, he continued to rave about what he saw.
“Some fantastic positions on the spins. The footwork, I think, was probably one of the best of the day,” Howarth stated. “Goodness me. I’m looking down and the technical score for this is going to be huge.”
When Kagiyama was announced as the winner, Howarth summarized his feelings with a few final thoughts.
“That really was a special performance from Yuma Kagiyama,” Howarth noted. “The crowd got right behind him all the way to the end. They sensed they were watching something special. He deserves it (the victory). He absolutely deserves it.”
Kawabe comes in fourth
Mana Kawabe (185.22) finished fourth in the women’s competition won by South Korea’s You Young with 214.00.
The 15-year-old was fourth after the short program but was unable to make the podium after her free skate to “Black Swan.” She fell on her triple lutz and under-rotated a triple axel, a triple loop, and a triple toe loop on the back end of a combination.
Kawabe, who earned level fours on all of her spins, missed the podium by 2.50 points, with Russia’s Anna Frolova (187.72) taking third place.
The Nagoya native is still early in her career and has great potential, so her result in Switzerland is an encouraging one.
Insight from Arutunian
Coach Rafael Arutunian made some interesting comments in an interview at the Grand Prix Final last month in Turin, Italy, with the Russian website rsport.ria.ru that were translated into English and posted on fs-gossips.com.
The interviewer implied that Nathan Chen has bypassed Yuzuru Hanyu in ability, but Arutunian disagreed.
“Sorry, but Yuzuru doesn’t let Nathan relax,” Arutunian replied. “And on the contrary, I like the way they compete with each other. In constant intrigue, look at what’s happening in the stands.”
While discussing an age limit for skating in seniors, Arutunian revealed some thoughts about his long and successful collaboration with Chen.
“I take an athlete, and knowing that he will perform in seniors at a certain age, I will teach him differently,” Arutunian noted. “Everyone asks me: How do you coach Chen on Skype? I don’t coach him on Skype.
“I taught him how to train. I did not coach him, but I taught him how to train,” Arutunian continued. “Feel the difference? I taught him what to do and in what order.”
Arutunian then indicated that he and Chen have plans to introduce more elements in the two-time world champion’s programs.
“Now he shows the same things that he’s been doing for a long time,” Arutunian commented. “We are progressing at training, but we don’t show everything yet. In training, Nathan shows even more serious things, but so far they are not for strangers’ eyes.”
Lambiel inspired by Shoma
In an interview with the Olympic Channel over the weekend, Stephane Lambiel talked about becoming the coach of Shoma Uno.
“It’s a big honor for me to be able to work with such a talent,” Lambiel stated. “Shoma when he practices, there is nothing random. There is this power, determination of an athlete that takes you up there. It’s no magic.”
Lambiel discussed Uno and plans for the future.
“He has a unique way of moving. The movement that he does is very natural,” Lambiel noted. “So I would like to use this kind of natural feel to create the new atmosphere in his program. We’ve been working with David Wilson the last few days and doing a little bit of touch-ups on his free program. And the fact that he brings this intensity is so beautiful and it inspires me.”