Shoma Uno finally claimed a long-awaited world title at the 2022 World Figure Skating Championships on Saturday.
After placing second at the event in 2017 and 2018, then fourth in 2019 and 2021, Uno now found himself atop the podium. He also has an Olympic silver medal from 2018 and bronze from this year’s Winter Games, making this gold all the sweeter.
“I’m very happy of this achievement, I worked very hard,” said Uno, whose winning free skate included five quadruple jumps, two of which were under-rotated. “I’m very excited to finally be first.”
The 24-year-old scored personal bests across the board with 109.63 in the short (previous: 109.50), 202.85 in the free (previous: 197.36) and 312.48 total. His prior personal best total was 293.00 from the Olympics.
The competition was missing both Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu, who combined to win the past three Olympic and five of the last seven world titles.
Uno was joined on the podium by Japanese teammate Yuma Kagiyama, who at age 18 repeats his silver-medal performance from his debut worlds last year, and American Vincent Zhou, who made an unexpected return to the medals after missing the Olympic men’s singles event.
Kagiyama’s total of 297.60 was 12.45 fewer than the score that earned him Olympic silver last month.
Zhou had a wild ride to this competition and an inconsistent history at worlds, to say the least, but it seemed to all pay off with a storybook ending in Montpellier, France.
The 2017 junior world champion was sixth at the 2018 Winter Olympics, where he was the first to land a quadruple lutz at the Games, then a disappointing 14th at his first senior worlds the following month.
He rose to bronze at the 2019 worlds, putting out the performances he had been seeking and marking himself as an Olympic medal contender. Later in the season he helped the U.S. win World Team Trophy with a combined personal score of 299.01 — the closest he has come to his goal of 300 points.
After worlds was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, Zhou returned to that stage in 2021 with a shockingly poor short program performance that placed him 25th — one spot shy of even advancing to the free skate.
Now 21, Zhou worked to return to show he was still one of the best in the world for this year’s Olympics, but that opportunity was taken away from him. He helped the U.S. finish second in the team event, then tested positive for Covid the day after his free skate and was unable to compete in the men’s singles competition (or walk in the Closing Ceremony two weeks later).
After waiting approximately 45 more days to finally compete, Zhou’s patience, hard work and determination paid off, despite the mental struggles he battled during that time. He was sixth in the short program with 95.84 points and fourth in the free with 181.54, and both results were enough to give him the bronze medal overall with a 277.38 total.
“I feel very, very proud of myself,” Zhou said. “I couldn’t do anything in training leading up to this. I was mentally just in a very bad place, but I got myself on a plane, I got myself together, I took it one practice at a time, and now I put out two strong performances. I’m so proud of myself.”
Teammate and training mate Camden Pulkinen earned a ‘small medal’ for having the third-highest scoring free skate; it is his first senior international medal. He rebounded from placing 12th in the short program to finish fifth overall at his first worlds.
Pulkinen’s previous best free skate score was 155.73 from Skate Canada in 2019. In Montpellier, he earned 182.19 points for his free.
A 2016 Youth Olympian, Pulkinen was fifth at this season’s U.S. Championships. He was added to the world team after Chen withdrew with a nagging injury and two-time Olympian Jason Brown declined his first alternate spot.
Meanwhile, the third American – Ilia Malinin – who had the best chance to medal after sitting fourth from the short program, fell on his quad salchow and seemed to lose all momentum from there. With the 11th-best free skate, the 17-year-old dropped to ninth. He will finish his season next month at the junior world championships.
“I put pressure on myself wanting to skate good so badly, and it didn’t work out,” Malinin said.
Kazuki Tomono, who was third in the short program and hoping to be part of a historic Japanese sweep, ended in sixth after a handful of errors in the free skate that included a fall on his quad salchow as well.
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