Shoma Uno

Japan Open sees return of one star, rise of another to ignite figure skating season

Leave a comment

Mao Asada reportedly noticed Shoma Uno at a public rink in Nagoya, Japan, when Uno was 5 years old and Asada was 12 or 13.

Some 12 years later, they shared victory over most of the world’s best skaters at the Japan Open on Saturday.

Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist competing for the first time since winning her third World title in March 2014, topped the free skate-only, team event over countrywoman and 2015 World silver medalist Satoko Miyahara.

“Although it was the best first competition [of a season] I’ve ever had, I didn’t achieve my goal,” Asada said, according to “I was aiming to at least recover to the level I was at during 2014 Worlds. I think I can do much, much better, so I think I can only give myself 55 [out of 100].”

The 2015 World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia was third, followed by Adelina Sotnikova in her first international event since winning surprise Sochi Olympic gold.

U.S. champion Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold, who was fourth at the Olympics and the 2015 Worlds, were fifth and sixth at the Japan Open.

Asada, 25, opened her skate by landing her signature triple Axel. Tuktamysheva, who won eight international competitions last season and talked about adding a quadruple jump, fell on her opening triple Axel on Saturday. Wagner and Gold also fell.

Miyahara, Gold and 2014 Olympic team event star Yulia Lipnitskaya headline Skate America in Milwaukee in two weeks, the start of the Grand Prix season. NBC Sports will have coverage all season.

Japan Open Results
1. Mao Asada (JPN) — 141.70
2. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 134.67
3. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 128.34
4. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) — 118.81
5. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 117.84
6. Gracie Gold (USA) — 114.53

Performance Videos: Asada | Miyahara | Tuktamysheva | Sotnikova | Wagner | Gold

Perhaps more noteworthy was Uno, who landed two quadruple jumps en route to topping the men’s standings over 2015 World champion Javier Fernandez and three-time World champion Patrick Chan.

Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 Olympic and World champion, was not in the field.

Uno, 17, finished second to Hanyu at last season’s Japanese Championships, was not entered at the senior World Championships but did win the World Junior title. He’s entered in Skate America, where he’ll face Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten and U.S. champion Jason Brown.

“I didn’t expect that I could get such a high score at all,” Uno said, according to “But, I would only rate my performance 80 out of 100, because I think I can do better in other elements besides jumps. … I don’t want to be satisfied with this result, but I want to aim higher.”

Uno’s performance marked an improvement from his season opener at the U.S. Classic in Salt Lake City two weeks prior. Uno was ninth in that short program but scored highest in the free skate to finish fifth overall against a weaker field.

On Saturday, Chan, who took the 2014-15 season off from competition, put his hands on the ice twice to keep from falling on jump landings. Fernandez fell on a quadruple Salchow attempt.

They both outscored four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, who is taking this season off from competition.

Japan Open Results
1. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 185.48
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 176.24
3. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 159.14
4. Jeremy Abbott (USA) — 153.72
5. Daisuke Murakami (JPN) — 145.77
6. Brian Joubert (FRA) — 105.51

Performance Videos: Uno | Fernandez | Chan | Abbott

MORE FIGURE SKATING: Carolina Kostner’s suspension reduced

Jake Arrieta and the Olympics

Jake Arrieta
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fans of the Olympics searching for a team to root for in the MLB playoffs should look no further than the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs, in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, seeking their first World Series title since 1908 and set to play at the Pittsburgh Pirates in a wild-card game Wednesday, have three U.S. Olympic bronze medalists on their roster.

Pitchers Jake Arrieta and Trevor Cahill and outfielder Dexter Fowler were on the 24-man 2008 U.S. team that finished third in Beijing, the Olympic curtain call for baseball.

MLB never stopped its season for an Olympic break — like the NHL does — so the Beijing team was made up of 23 minor leaguers and Stephen Strasburg, then a rising junior at San Diego State.

Note Arrieta, who ranked second in the majors in ERA this season (1.77), including a 0.75 ERA and 12-1 record in 15 starts since the All-Star Game. Arrieta, 29, is slated to start the wild-card game Wednesday.

Arrieta was actually more dominant at the Olympics, where he was the only minor leaguer on the U.S. who hadn’t yet reached a double-A league. He made one appearance and threw six shutout innings in Beijing, two years before his MLB debut with the Baltimore Orioles.

“One thing about pitchers, if they can throw a couple pitches in the strike zone, they could be at A-ball one day and the next day in the big leagues,” U.S. Olympic team manager Davey Johnson said in 2008, according to “He’s kind of intimidating. He can look at you like you don’t want to mess with him in a dark alley.”

Arrieta’s lone Olympic start came in a memorable 9-1 pool-play win against China that included hit batters and ejections.

In the fifth inning, top Chinese player and then-Seattle Mariners catching prospect Wang Wei was knocked out of the game in a glancing home-plate collision with U.S. outfielder Matt LaPorta.

In the sixth, Wang’s replacement took a direct hit from outfielder Nate Schierholtz trying to score on a sacrifice fly, the catcher’s helmet flying off.

China manager Jim Lefebvre (a former Cubs manager) took issue with the rough play, complained to umpires and was ejected.

In the seventh, LaPorta was hit in the head by a pitch, exited the game and was diagnosed with a mild concussion. LaPorta did play later in the tournament.

In the ninth, China’s backup catcher smacked a solo home run off a relief pitcher, circled the bases with his right index finger held high and stomped on home plate. The run reduced the U.S. lead to 9-1.

The U.S. lost to Cuba in the semifinals and beat Japan in the bronze-medal game.

Arrieta also conversed with then-U.S. president George W. Bush while in Beijing. They’re both Texans.

“I was shocked to meet him at first and a little nervous,” Arrieta said, according to USA Baseball. “My family is going to be jealous, and it is something I’ll remember for a long time.”

Baseball was voted out of the 2012 Olympics in 2005 and came up short in bids to return for future Olympics. Its next attempt, to return for Tokyo 2020, will be decided by August.

MORE BASEBALL: The Olympic All-Star baseball team

Carolina Kostner eligible to compete Jan. 1

Carolina Kostner
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Italian figure skater Carolina Kostner can compete starting Jan. 1 after her suspension for assisting then-boyfriend and Olympic race walking champion Alex Schwazer in covering up his doping was amended Monday.

It’s unknown whether Kostner, 28, seeks to compete again.

Her ban had been scheduled to end May 15, but it’s now up at the end of 2015 after she settled a dispute with doping authorities, according to the Italian Olympic Committee. The ban was increased to 21 months but then backdated to April 1, 2014.

The Olympic bronze medalist Kostner was originally given a 16-month ban last January after she admitted she lied to drug testers who showed up at her home in 2012, looking for Schwazer in order to perform a drug test. She said she told drug testers Schwazer was not there, per his request, even though she knew that he was present.

Kostner said before the Schwazer controversy that she would take the 2014-15 season off, after she won Olympic and World Championships bronze medals earlier in 2014.

In Sochi, she became the second oldest women’s figure skating medalist since 1928, according to

She owns six World Championships medals, including gold in 2012.

The 2008 Olympic champion Schwazer tested positive for EPO in 2012, was excluded from the London Olympics and banned for four years.

MORE FIGURE SKATING: U.S. silver medalist comes out as gay