Akiko Suzuki Unveils Reasons for Shoma Uno’s World Championships Performance Dip and Future Plans | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Akiko Suzuki Unveils Reasons for Shoma Uno’s World Championships Performance Dip and Future Plans

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The World Figure Skating Championships were held in Montreal, Canada until March 24th. While Kaori Sakamoto (24) achieved Japan’s first-ever three-peat in the women’s category, Shoma Uno (26), who was expected to achieve a three-peat in the men’s category, faltered in the free skate and finished fourth.

I asked commentator Akiko Suzuki, who competed as a representative of Japan in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Olympics, achieving 8th place in both, about the reasons behind Shoma Uno’s performance decline.

Masama Uno showed a bitter smile after his free skate performance.

In the Short Program (SP), Shoma Uno executed the quadruple flip and quadruple toe loop perfectly, receiving top marks for spins and steps as well. He scored 107.72 points, achieving the highest score of the season. That’s why his mistakes in the Free Skate are regrettable.

“Shoma Uno entered the Free Skate in first place, but it seemed that a slight misalignment in his sense of jumps appeared during the performance. Even a slight misalignment can affect not only the deductions for jumps but also the evaluation of program components and overall program performance. That may be the reason why his score didn’t quite reach its potential.”

Mr. Suzuki, who is now also active as a choreographer

――What does “a slight misalignment in the sense of jumps” refer to?

“It’s a very challenging aspect, but even in a short period, there can be subtle misalignments in the sense of jumps. Especially with jumps, success or failure is determined in an instant. Based on watching his performance in the Short Program, he executed good jumps. However, it seems that his sense didn’t quite match the actual movements of his body when it came to the Free Skate.”

―― Shoma Uno himself seemed to feel from the practice before the Free Skate, “I guess it couldn’t be helped if I made mistakes in both the loop and flip.” It shows the frightening aspect of figure skating where the sense can go awry in the short span between the Short Program and the Free Skate.

“I felt the difficulty of peaking on the day of competition again while watching Shoma Uno’s Free Skate performance.”

―― Was the pressure of aiming for a three-peat weighing heavily on him?

“I don’t think he felt it too much. He’s a player who pursues how much of what he has practiced he can bring out in the actual performance, rather than focusing on winning or losing and scores.”

―― Shoma Uno’s statement of feeling refreshed during the press conference has sparked interest in his future career path.

“I believe that regardless of the result of not achieving a three-peat, what matters is where Shoma Uno himself can set his sights on. For athletes, if they don’t have a clear understanding of ‘why they continue to compete,’ it’s difficult to continue their athletic careers. What he is looking forward to next, and what he considers as ‘having accomplished,’ varies from player to player. Some players focus on the results, while others don’t. If he can pursue what kind of skating he wants to do, and if it’s possible to pursue it not in competition but professionally, then it’s entirely possible for him to move on to a different stage.”

Mr. Suzuki, who is now also involved in coaching the junior generation

―― When the conversation turned to American skater Ilia Malinin (19), who achieved his first victory at the World Championships this time, Shoma Uno mentioned the names of other skaters from the same generation and said, “Do your best.” Will he indeed step back from the forefront?

“If there are still things he wants to try as a skater, or if he has the desire to perform even better than the medalists this time, then the arena of competition will remain. Only the individual knows where their motivation lies. Gradually, firm conclusions will be formed within oneself.”

―― That’s something only the individual knows.

“I believe that both continuing as a skater and retiring require great determination. You can’t continue in competition with mixed feelings. I think Shoma Uno is the type who doesn’t have a strong focus on medals or consecutive victories. Therefore, what he seeks in the future is uncertain. Personally, I will simply respect the answer he comes to after careful consideration. I want to support his decision.”

Having built an era, Shoma Uno finds himself faced with a difficult decision in his mid-20s. How will the “man who doesn’t care about rankings” decide?

  • PHOTO Kyodo News

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