Japan's Yuma Kagiyama storms figure skating's season opener

Rising star Yuma Kagiyama lands two perfect quads and a convincing win at the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Courchevel, France.

By Ken Browne

Yuma Kagiyama made an impressive start to the season with a convincing victory at the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Courchevel, France.

The 16-year-old Japanese star-in-the-making triumphed in both the short program and the free skate totalling 234.87 points, more than 34 points ahead of nearest rival Aleksa Rakic from Canada who tallied 200.71.

Russia's Andrei Kutovoi finished third on 198.06 points.

Beyond the scores, the Japanese teen sensation was fun and fluid on the ice, enjoying his routines and giving the impression that this could be a big break-out year for him.

“My goal this season is to win the Japan Junior Championships,” Kagiyama said before the tournament, “then I can go to the world junior championships and the Youth Olympic Games [At Lausanne 2020].”

After his free skate he doubled down on those goals in his post-competition interview.

Kagiyama, who is coached by his dad - two-time Olympian Masakazu Kagiyama, landed two perfectly executed quads and a triple Axel during his free skate routine to conclude a strong opening statement at figure skating's curtain raiser.

His free skate was choreographed to music from the movie 'Tucker', here it is in full:

In the men's short program on Friday, Kagiyama skated a table-topping routine with a score of 80.61.

Matthew Nielsen of the United States finish second in the short program on 70.19 but dropped to 6th place after the free and Aleksa Rakic of Canada ranked third in the short on 69.94.

It was a personal best short program skate for Kagiyama in his second Junior season.

He performs to a song from the movie “Castle of Sand” in his short program, selected by his choreographer Misao Sato.

“The short gets more exciting toward the end and it has a lot of steps and that’s what I want the audience to see,” Kagiyama said before the competition, “for the free, there is a lot of dance, so the whole thing is the highlight. I hope the audience enjoys it with me.”

Here's his full short program from France:

In a post-competition interview Kagiyama said that his two great aims this year are the Junior GP final in Torino this December and the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne in January.

He came fifth at last season’s Japan Junior Championships but looks a contender for first place this season.

Watch out Yuzu?

When asked if he feels he can challenge Japan's skate megastars Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno, Kagiyama says he has a long way to go yet.

“If you compare, I am not as good as the seniors,” the Yokohama resident humbly acknowledged.

“I hope to be at the same level soon. They largely rely on their bodies, but I can only make small moves, so I will practice and hope to be able to skate like them.”

With two new quads already in the works for this campaign, Kagiyama may get there quicker than he thinks.

The 2019/20 ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating

The 2019/20 season is the 23rd edition of the ISU Junior GP of Figure Skating which was first introduced in 1997.

The series showcases talented junior skaters from all over the world and provides young skaters aged 13 to 19 (21 for male ice dance and pair skating partners) with a chance to skate internationally and gain experience.

More than 300 young skaters from over 50 ISU members are slated to compete in this year's series which is composed of seven legs.

They are:

  • Courchevel, France from August 22 to 24
  • Lake Placid, United States from August 29 to August 31
  • Riga, Latvia from September 5 to 7
  • Chelyabinsk, Russia from September 12 to 14
  • Gdansk, Poland from September 19 to 21
  • Zagreb, Croatia from September 26 to 28
  • Egna, Italy from October 3 to 5

The grand finale is the ISU Junior GP Final, which will be held in Torino, Italy from December 5 to 8.

The best six skaters and couples in each discipline qualify for the ISU Junior GP Final, and skaters qualify for the final by earning points according to their placements.