SAITAMA – Shoma Uno prevailed in a quad showdown in the free skate on Saturday to become the first Japanese man to defend his title at the figure skating world championships.
Uno, skating to selection of music that included Bach, attempted five quadruple jumps at Saitama Super Arena. He landed all of them except the quad salchow which he under-rotated for a total of 301.14 points.
South Korean skater Cha Jun-hwan was second with 296.03 points followed by American teenager Ilia Malinin, who became the first skater to land a quadruple axel at the world championships and finished with 288.44 points.
“The free skate was far from perfect but I put everything into it,” Uno said. “Every jump felt precarious but I was able to get a good result.”
Uno capped an impressive perfomance by the hosts that saw Japanese skaters take gold in three out of four disciplines for the first time in history. Kaori Sakamoto won the women’s title while Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the pairs gold.
“The past two weeks have been very tough because I wasn’t in peak condition, and I caused a lot of concern to everyone around me,” Uno said. “But I was able to pay them back and show my gratitude with my performance today.”
Cha, third after the short program, moved up to second with a powerful routine that featured a quad salchow and a quad toeloop.
Cha landed all his jumps cleanly except for a triple flip on his way to becoming the first South Korean man to win a medal at the world championships.
“It’s an honor to be the first male skater as a Korean skater to get a (world) medal,” Cha said.
Malinin attempted six quadruple jumps. He landed his opening quad axel but under-rotated a quad lutz which was part of a combination and was deducted points on a quad flip and a quad lutz.
It was Malinin’s first medal at the world championships. He finished ninth in his 2022 debut in Montpellier, France.
“I was nervous at the beginning so I was glad to pull it off,” Malinin said. “I’m just very shocked by how much I have progressed this season.”
Coached by his parents who represented Uzbekistan, the 18-year-old Malinin is the only skater to land a quadruple axel, widely considered the hardest jump in figure skating, in competition.
Russia’s dominant skating team has been excluded from the world championships for the second straight year because of the invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States won their first ice dance title.
First after the rhythm dance, Chock and Bates finished first in the free dance with 134.07 points for a total of 226.1.
Reigning European Champions Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy were second with 219.85 points while Grand Prix Final Champions Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada were third with 217.88.
Chock fell once but it was not on a required element.
“We had to dig very, very deep many times, but I know we would not be sitting here without all this experience,” Chock said, adding the fall came as a shock to her. “I just caught my heel on the ice and it was so surprising.”
Chock and Bates, the three-time Four Continents champions, have been together for 12 years.
They won the silver medal at the 2015 world championships in Shanghai, bronze in Boston in 2016 and bronze last year in Montpellier.
They have also competed at six Grand Prix Finals, winning four medals — all silver.
“We’ve been pursuing this goal for so many years,” Bates said. “It was exciting and stressful all at the same time. I know that the ice dance field is very competitive. We’ve competed against all these teams for so many years.
“We really wanted to focus on ourselves, and skate our best, and highlight all the work that we’ve put this year into these programs.”
The 2024 world championships will take place in Montreal, Canada.
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