Shoma Uno
AP

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

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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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J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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Alexandra Trusova, 15, becomes first woman to land three quadruple jumps

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Alexandra Trusova established herself as the world’s leading female figure skater … in her first senior international competition.

Trusova, the 15-year-old, two-time world junior champion from Russia, became the first woman to land three quadruple jumps in one international competition program, posting the world’s highest free skate and total scores on the early season.

Trusova previously landed three quads in the free skate at the Russian Federation’s test skates in early September.

She opened Saturday’s free skate with a quadruple Lutz, a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination and another quad toe to run away from Japanese Olympian Kaori Sakamoto by 44.27 points. Video is here.

She won a lower-level event in Slovakia with 238.69 points, which would have beaten Japan’s top skater, Rika Kihira, and Olympic bronze medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva by more than 14 points at an event last week in Canada. However, judging panels can be more or less forgiving from event to event.

Still, Trusova established herself as a force going into next month’s Grand Prix season. She will face Kihira and Medvedeva at Skate Canada the last week of October.

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