Beijing – After finishing on the Beijing 2022 men’s figure skating podium, silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama and bronze-winning Shoma Uno are looking forward to spending much more time with each other.
With 18-year-old Kagiyama enrolling from April at Chukyo University — a powerhouse in the sport that has produced skaters such as Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada and two-time world champion Miki Ando, where Uno is set to resume his studies after a long sabbatical — the pair are eager to push each other on the training rink as they begin to look ahead toward the Milan Cortina Winter Games in 2026.
“I will definitely have to aim higher, so by training and practicing together we can improve each other,” Kagiyama said during a Friday news conference.
“I believe this is part of the culture of figure skating, the fact that we train with each other so we can be better. And hopefully we can continue with that culture.”
The feeling is mutual, with Uno — six years Kagiyama’s senior — expressing eagerness to learn from the youngster, who has won two Grand Prix events in his first proper senior season.
“We are six years apart, but I feel like we are in the same generation when we train together,” Uno said of Kagiyama. “I haven’t been able to train with that many skaters who have inspired me to improve and vice versa, and I am very glad that I’ve become this sort of presence for him.
“When I look at Kagiyama training, the perfection he shows in his programs, I see him and it encourages me to improve myself.”
Uno specifically highlighted the quad salchow, a jump he struggled with when opening his free skate set to “Bolero” at the Capital Indoor Arena on Thursday.
“I still am struggling in terms of quad jumps, including the salchow, so I would like to train more,” Uno said. “I once asked (Kagiyama) how you jump the salchow, and he said, ‘I just feel like flying.’ I understand what he means, but going forward I would like to watch him to learn what I’m missing.”
Both men have the same target in mind: catching up to gold medalist and three-time reigning world champion Nathan Chen. The 22-year-old was an unstoppable force in Beijing, delivering two strong programs that solidified his position as the sport’s No. 1.
While Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu’s rivalry has dominated figure skating over much of the last two Olympic cycles, the American has emerged as the new standard on the ice, with confident charisma to match his athleticism in the air.
“What I thought at this event was that I want to become a presence like Nathan,” Uno said. “If I were to say I was aiming for a gold medal, that could only mean that I was wishing for him to fail. That’s why my goal in Beijing was to deliver what I’m capable of right now.
“I’ve never thought I can perform better than I train; I always feel like I perform at the level of my training. If I don’t exceed that I don’t think I can be the best in the world.”
Another skater the two will draw inspiration from is Japan teammate Hanyu, who failed to win a third straight Olympic gold but persisted in his attempt to land what would have been a historic quad axel — a challenge Uno believes will inspire “many others” to pursue figure skating’s most difficult jump.
Though Hanyu’s presence has loomed large over these Games, the 27-year-old’s absence from Friday’s news conference hinted at a changing of the guard for men’s figure skating in Japan as younger talents such as Kagiyama begin to assert themselves on the international stage.
“Even if he didn’t complete his quad axel, I think the challenge itself is significant and that legend will remain with me for a long time,” Kagiyama said. “Even if someone else lands the jump, I don’t think anyone will exceed Hanyu’s presence. I don’t think I can ever be like him, so I want to find my own path.”
Added Uno: “Over these last few years, Yuzu has done things that only he can do. I don’t think I can be like him and use all of that pressure to fuel my performances.
“But I think as long as I’m active in the sport, I’ll be skating together with Yuma. It won’t just be me, or the two of us, but I think a lot of amazing young skaters are going to come up in Japan, and even if one of us can’t carry that pressure we’ll all carry it together and keep improving.”
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Source: The Japan Times