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

Shoma Uno
AP
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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 icenetwork.com. “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 icenetwork.com. “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

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