Women’s Figure Skating Next Generation Aces Mao Shimada, Rena Uezono, and Ikura Kushida Sparkle in Competition of Beauty | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Women’s Figure Skating Next Generation Aces Mao Shimada, Rena Uezono, and Ikura Kushida Sparkle in Competition of Beauty

There is nothing but potential! The gateway to success for Olympic medalists: the women's figure skaters at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships!

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Champion Mao Shimada (15) [The prodigy girl who achieved consecutive victories] originally from Tokyo, but moved her base to Kyoto in the fifth grade of elementary school in search of a better training environment. In addition to the triple axel, the quadruple loop is her weapon.

At the Gateway to Olympic Medalists, the World Junior Championships, which has produced numerous world champions in the past, Mao Shimada (15, Kinoshita Academy) took first place, followed by Rena Uezono (13, LYS) in third place and Ikura Kushida (16, Kinoshita Academy) in fifth place, showing Japan’s strong performance.

Regarding the strengths of Shimada, who achieved the first consecutive victories for Japan, commentator Akiko Suzuki, who has participated in the Olympics twice, explains

“She excels not only in difficult elements like the triple axel and quadruple loop but also in spins. Her spins are exceptionally fast and precise, standing out even among senior competitors, becoming a stable source of points. Furthermore, her competitiveness is another strength. Despite the low success rate in official practices, she successfully landed the quadruple jump in the competition. Demonstrating her full potential under the pressure of defending her title is a testament to her mental strength.”

3rd place Rena Uezono (13) [A promising talent with mature expressions] from her hometown of Aichi, she began her competitive career after watching Mao Asada’s ice show. Her performances, leveraging her long limbs, are captivating.

Uezono, who shone in third place, is praised for her “beautiful skating,” which belies her age of 13.

“Uezono excels in rich, glossy expressions. You can feel her attention to detail in the movement of her fingertips and eye gaze,” as mentioned before.

In her debut year in the junior category, Uezono is noted for having “a well-proportioned face and giving confident responses during interviews, indicating the potential to become a star athlete,” according to a national newspaper sports reporter.

In fifth place is Ikura Kushida (16) [Expresses a unique worldview delicately]. She began skating at the age of four in Aichi Prefecture. Her attention to detail in aspects like eye movement suggests potential for growth in her performances.

On the other hand, while Kushida narrowly missed the podium, she received high praise for her expressive abilities, almost as if she were narrating a story to match the music.

“Even in a single pose, she possesses a unique worldview that only she can express. Although there were a few mistakes in this competition, Kushida managed to skate without losing her characteristic style,” commented Suzuki.

Expectations are high for the three skaters as they strive towards the Olympics.

“Shimada already possesses world-class technical skills, but if she can elevate her expressive abilities to another level, it would be perfect. If Uezono and Kushida aim for medals at the Olympics in the future, they will need to achieve a high level of completeness by balancing both technical prowess and expressive skills. All three of them are earnest athletes who approach practice with sincerity. I hope they continue to improve their abilities while managing their physical growth,” concludes Suzuki.

From the March 22, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Kyodo News, Getty

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