Japan’s figure skaters dominate Grand Prix Final

Takuya Matsumoto / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Right: Reigning world champion Shoma Uno performs during his free skate at the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, on Saturday.
Left: Mai Mihara skates in her free program on Saturday.

TURIN, Italy — Shoma Uno and Mai Mihara won the men’s and women’s singles at the ISU Grand Prix Final on Saturday, as Japan continued its domination of the season-ending competition following the nation’s first-ever pairs title a day earlier.

Amid the sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine meaning Russian athletes are not allowed to take part in such events, Japan’s victories in the singles were not unexpected. Of the six men who qualified for the singles, four were from Japan, while three of the six women were also from Japan.

Just a week before he turns 25, Uno won his first Grand Prix Final in his fifth appearance, finishing with 304.46 points, a season best. In second was compatriot Sota Yamamoto at 274.35, followed by Ilia Malinin of the United States at 271.94.

In her debut Grand Prix Final, Mihara topped the field with 208.17 points after placing second in the short program. She overtook compatriot and Olympic bronze medalist Kaori Sakamoto, who was the leader heading into the free skate.

“I enjoyed skating, performing with all my power and keeping my focus until the end,” the 23-year-old Mihara said.

Sakamoto, 22, made errors on her jumps and had the lowest score in the free skate to fall to fifth with 192.56 points overall. Japan’s Rinka Watanabe, 20, was fourth with 196.01 points.

Uno, the reigning world champion and three-time Olympic medalist, led after the short program with a season best 99.99 points. He followed that with a personal best in the free skate with 204.47 points.

Takuya Matsumoto / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sota Yamamoto performs on Saturday.

He became the third Japanese man to win gold at the Grand Prix Final, following Daisuke Takahashi, who captured the title in 2012, and Yuzuru Hanyu, who accomplished the feat for four consecutive years, starting in 2013.

Yamamoto, making his Grand Prix Final debut, had personal best scores in the free skate and overall to hold on to second, where the 22-year-old started the day. Japan’s Shun Sato, 18, finished fourth with 250.16 points and Kao Miura, 17, ended in fifth at 245.74.

In the women’s singles, Isabeau Levito of the United States finished second with 197.23 points, while Loena Hendrickx of Belgium placed third with 196.35 points.

The pair of Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the historic gold for Japan on Friday.