Picture by 2018 Getty Images

PyeongChang 2018 silver medallist Uno Shoma to kick off Olympic season at Japan Open 

It’s been a roller coaster three years for Uno since he landed on the Olympic podium in 2018. Recently, he's been training at home in Japan without coach Stephane Lambiel.
By Nick McCarvel

"I have room to improve. Today I leave here to start preparing for Worlds."

Those were the words of Olympic silver medal-winning figure skater Uno Shoma as he faced a packed room of press at the close of the Olympic Games PyeongChang 2018.

The Japanese skater, fresh off the Olympic podium, was already eyeing what was to come: The World championships in just a few weeks' time, where he would eventually win a medal - another silver.

The perspective is one that can't go unnoticed as skating moves into another Olympic season: Uno, now 23, is not to be underestimated - either in his determination, or in his ability to produce high-level skating.

The two-time world medallist and four-time Japanese champion opens his 2021-22 season this coming Saturday (2 October) at the Japan Open in Saitama, a competition that normally features an international line-up, but - in light of travel restrictions due to the pandemic - will consist of only Japanese skaters.

Here, a look at Uno's path back to the Olympic season - and what to watch for from him in it.

The Beijing quad: A roller-coaster

After Uno won silver in Milan at Worlds in 2018, he would have a season to remember in 2018-19, capturing both of his Grand Prix assignments, nabbing silver at the Grand Prix Final and adding a third Japanese national title. But he would finish off the podium in Saitama at Worlds - ending up in fourth place.

That fourth-place finish spurred a series of roller-coaster results, including an eighth place outing at Internationaux de France in 2019. But it was a learning moment for Uno, who had just then began working with 2006 Olympic silver medallist Stephane Lambiel on an informal basis.

Lambiel would later become his full-time coach.

After that eighth-place finish, Uno said: "I always felt that skating would be no fun without results. But even though I made a ton of mistakes and didn't get the result I was looking for, I still had the desire to compete and was already looking ahead to the next meet.

He continued: "It made me realise how much I love skating. ... I went to Switzerland [to train with Lambiel] right after that."

While Uno has shown flashes of his best in the time since the pandemic began, he has spent much of 2021 away from Lambiel, at home in Japan, performing in shows and keeping in touch long-distance with his mentor.

Japan Open will be the first real test for the Olympic medallist to see where his form stands as he heads towards Beijing 2022.

Shoma's schedule: Japan Open and more

The field in Saitama features two teams made up of men's and women's singles skaters, Uno teaming up with Sato Shun and Yamamoto Sota, set to face off against Tanaka Keiji, Tomono Kazuki and Miyake Sena.

Neither two-time Olympic champion Hanyu Yuzuru or reigning World silver medallist Kagiyama Yuma will compete.

From there, Uno is assigned to Skate America to kick off the Grand Prix season (22-24 October), followed by NHK Trophy (12-14 November) at home in Tokyo. There is the potential for Uno to add to his schedule, though he will also look to qualify for his fifth Grand Prix final - and first since that memorable 2018-19 season.