Team Japan 2018-19 will be a mix of seasoned veterans and rising stars. Two former champions are back in the mix, though only one is currently slated for international competitions.
Daisuke Takahashi is preparing for a comeback. His goal is to make it to nationals. Should he place top three at that event, he would be eligible to be named to the Four Continents or World teams.
Likewise, Sota Yamamoto, the 2015 Japanese junior champion, who disappeared from the junior circuit in 2016 after suffering a broken ankle shortly before the World Junior Championships has returned to competition. He won the first Challenger Series event, 2018 Asian Trophy, at the beginning of August and is in the running for the open spot Japan is holding at NHK Trophy.
Japan lost its top ice dance team in August when Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed announced the end of their partnership.
World and Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno, who recently returned from a one-month training stint in Russia with renowned coach Eteri Tutberidze, did not become a full-time member of her team because he would not consent to requirements that were compulsory to joining it.
When Uno spoke to the media at a national team training camp at Chukyo University on Monday, he revealed that he would be competing without a main coach this season, while also praising Eteri.
“Eteri was kind in tough circumstances,” Uno was quoted as saying. “It was a very good experience. It was a small time to practice in the environment and a small time to fit in.”
The 21-year-old, who appeared to enjoy his time in Novogorsk, did not disclose, however, why he did not decide to sign on with Tutberidze and her squad.
Ice Time has exclusively uncovered the real reason why Uno did not become a permanent member of Eteri’s team.
“Eteri has certain conditions that all her skaters must agree to,” a skating source said of the savant who has wowed the skating world with her work with Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva and others. “Shoma would not agree to them all and that is why he is not part of the team.”
Following her incredible debut season on the senior international circuit, teenage star Rika Kihira said she is preparing to take the figure skating world by storm once again by expanding her repertoire of jumps during the offseason.
The 16-year-old Japanese had a sensational start to her senior career this past season, winning six of her seven individual events at international meets.
“(The season) felt long,” she told Kyodo News in a recent interview. “It was my first on the senior circuit. I considered every meet crucial, so I didn’t want to win by luck. I was quick off the mark and I just gave it my all.
“I did my absolute best in every single meet, and I think I gained something from all of them.”
Kihira is among a handful of women who have landed triple axels in competition, and she aims to go above and beyond by adding quad jumps to her arsenal.
The teenager said she hopes to include one quad in her free program in addition to one triple axel, with one in the first half of the routine and the other later. She also revealed that she takes two-time Olympic men’s champ Yuzuru Hanyu’s “beautiful” quad jumps as a model to emulate.
“I want to be able to nail a quad jump before the start of next season,” she said. “I need to build up not only my core strength but my lower body as well.
“(Hanyu’s) jumps have a flow to them with no wasted energy.”
Uno’s coaching situation was not the only one addressed at the camp. Marin Honda informed the media that she would be splitting time this season between the United States and Japan.
Honda’s plan is to train in Southern California with coach Rafael Arutunian part of the time and at the Kansai University rink the rest of it.
Here is a photo collection of performances by the world's top figure skaters at the "ICE 2019" show held in Osaka on Saturday.
Ice Time believes this is a profoundly bad decision by Honda, who will turn 18 next month. It again calls into question her mental fortitude and real determination to succeed in the sport.
Coming off a very poor season, which saw her finish eighth at Skate America, sixth at the Internationaux de France, and a shocking 15th at the Japan nationals, the Kyoto native should be bearing down and seriously focusing on her career.
The idea that a two-country arrangement is the solution to Honda’s woes comes off as complete folly. It sounds more like a case of homesickness than anything else.