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Japan Open - Uno Shoma in awe of 'Quad God' Ilia Malinin

The reigning men's world champion praised the high-flying American ahead of Saturday's event in Saitama: "I want to get to where he is a year from now," he said.

3 min By Shintaro Kano | Created 7 October 2022
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(Picture by 2022 Getty Images)

Uno Shoma has found his new bull's eye in 17-year-old Ilia Malinin.

"It's just one practice but I think I found what to aim for, my goal for this season", reigning world champion Uno said on Friday (7 October) of the teenage American, on the eve of the Japan Open team figure skating event in Saitama.

"I was happy to see that and reassuring to know I've found motivation for another year".

For years Uno chased Hanyu Yuzuru and Nathan Chen as his model skaters. But with the Olympic champions not competing, Uno had been in search of a new goal for the upcoming season.

And he found one on this day, on the ice at the Saitama Super Arena, in the form of the 'Quad God'.

All eyes were on Ilia Malinin at Friday's practice of the Japan Open at Saitama Super Arena.
All eyes were on Ilia Malinin at Friday's practice of the Japan Open at Saitama Super Arena. (2022 Getty Images)

At the official practice, Malinin - who last month became the first skater in history to land a quadruple Axel in competition - flashed a free program that included seven quad jumps which he is attempting for the first time.

Uno conceded he is not going anywhere near the quad Axel - "it's not realistic for me" - but was inspired by Malinin's range of jumps, six in all.

"I always knew he was very good at the Axel but I saw his free program today and all his jumps were solid, just quality", Uno said.

"He can really get up and is so at ease doing it. He jumps in a way that won't lead to injury. He looks very flexible.

"Practicing lots of quads tends to increase the risk of injury but his form is the same every time. It's near perfection which is amazing to see.

"Right now, Ilia is more consistent and performing at a higher level. I want to get to where he is a year from now".

Uno will be without Kagiyama Yuma this weekend after the Beijing 2022 silver medallist decided to pull out, playing it safe with a nagging left-ankle sprain he suffered back in July ahead of the upcoming Grand Prix season.

Miura Kao, another 17-year-old set to make his debut on the senior circuit this season, took Kagiyama's place.

Kihira ramping it up

For the women, 2018 Grand Prix Final champion Kihira Rika will make her comeback to the international ice, alongside world champion Sakamoto Kaori who will compete with a broken pinky she suffered at the Lombardia Trophy in September.

Kihira made her competitive return last month at a regional meet in her native Central Japan after missing all of the Olympic season with a stress fracture in her right ankle.

On Friday, she said she is still feeling pain but plans to skate through it with eyes on the Japanese nationals in December in Osaka.

"It should be a good experience for me", the 20-year-old said. "I hope I don't aggravate it. I'm not pushing it right now and saving myself in practice but decided to enter anyway.

"I'll try not to worry about my foot too much when I'm out there".

Rika Kihira is set to return to the international stage for the first time since the 2021 world championships.
Rika Kihira is set to return to the international stage for the first time since the 2021 world championships. (2021 Getty Images)

The Teams

Japan

Sakamoto Kaori

Kihira Rika

Uno Shoma

Miura Kao

North America

Mariah Bell

Mirai Nagasu

Jason Brown

Ilia Malinin

Europe

Loena Hendrickx

Ekaterina Kurakova

Michael Brezina

Daniel Grassl

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