Two years after nearly quitting, Uno Shoma now wants to ‘skate as long as possible’

The PyeongChang 2018 silver medallist opens up in an exclusive interview on Olympic memories, his YouTube channel, and how his dogs have changed his outlook on life.

By Nick McCarvel
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Uno Shoma wouldn’t mind playing the lead character sometimes, too.

The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games silver medallist, Uno, 23, has won 10 silver medals at major international events throughout his storied figure skating career, including two at world championships (in 2017 and 2018) to add to his Olympic silver.

But the four-time Japanese national champion is well aware he’s been cast as part of a generation that has included two-time Olympic champion Hanyu Yuzuru, his countryman, as well as three-time world champion Nathan Chen.

Uno, however, still has golden dreams.

“To be honest, putting myself as a main character of a movie, I would like to achieve that goal,” Uno told Olympics.com in an exclusive interview last month at Skate America where he claimed – yes – the silver medal. “[I’d like to] see the view from there. I'm looking forward to it.”

“Usually in my career I end up with many silvers,” he added. “Until I get to reach the gold, I can't really tell what my mind would think at that time. Until then, I don't really know where I stand.”

Uno headed to NHK Trophy

This weekend Uno will stand (and skate) in front of the home fans in Japan for the NHK Trophy Grand Prix Series event, held in Tokyo (12 and 13 November) and without Hanyu, who withdrew due to an ankle injury.

Uno will meet the skater that beat him at Skate America, American Vincent Zhou, as he continues to build towards what he hopes is another Olympic experience at Beijing 2022.

“Coming into [Skate America], I was pretty confident that I really do have the chance to make it onto the podium,” Uno said through an interpreter. “And I actually did this week - so I'm really happy about that. But at the same time, I [do] realize that I have a lot to work on to make it to the top of the world [stage].”

Japan will name three men to its singles team, a race that is loaded with talent in featuring Hanyu, Uno, reigning world silver medallist Kagiyama Yuma, and a host of challengers who are looking to be a part of a dazzling era of Japanese men's skating.

Lambiel’s impact: Unfinished business

While Uno has been a part of the elite group of men’s skaters for much of the last five years, it was in November 2019 when he had a disastrous outing at the Internationaux de France, finishing eighth, and walking away from the competition contemplating retirement at age 21.

“At that point, I was thinking, 'Maybe I should quit figure skating,'” Uno said. “But then I thought it over and thought, 'What else can I do?' In the end, I realized that continuing to figure skate is the best or closest way to succeed instead of starting something whole new, from zero down. In the end... That's why I don't have any other dream off of the ice [right now].”

Another silver medallist, Torino 2006 runner-up, Stephane Lambiel became Uno’s full-time coach in the weeks after that event, and that relationship has helped ignite a fire for Uno that he hadn’t felt he was tapping into previously – at least not on a consistent basis.

“I was thinking about finishing my career,” he said. “I think in this time, working with Stephane, I just really feel that I want to skate as long as possible. It's not really payback [to him] or anything, but I want to grow as a skater. And I want to achieve some titles with Stephane so that everyone will know what a great coach he is.”

This year, Lambiel choregraphed Uno’s free skate, set to the iconic Bolero, and Uno said it’s perhaps his main goal this Olympic season: “[I want] to make this free program my own... not one I can skate easily, but do it with more confidence.”

Off-ice Uno Shoma: Dogs, YouTube, and more

During the pandemic lockdown in 2020, Uno started a YouTube channel that has grown to have over 77,000 subscribers, featuring a behind-the-scenes look at his life, his daily goings-on, chats with athletes and fans, and (sometimes) his dogs.

“I wasn't on the ice at all [at that time] and I was trying to find a way to express myself to the world more,” he said. “[My team and I] thought that the easiest way was through movies. So we thought, 'Movies, of course, YouTube.'”

It’s a good distraction, he said, from the intense training he does for his skating.

“When I'm on the ice, I'm totally focused and really focused on my sport. But off the ice, I think most people know that I'm a lazy slacker [laughs]. I think that it was a good way to show people how I am off of the ice; 'This is Shoma Uno.'”

There are also three dogs, Toro, Emma and Baron, which Uno said have also helped to shape his life in the recent past: The animals show him how to de-stress, and not take things too seriously.

“At first, to be honest, I was the only one refusing to have a dog; I am really afraid of all animals, big or small, it doesn't matter,” Uno explained. “That's not my thing. But talking to people around me, they told me, whether it's a baby, a dog, your family, it's a totally different stage. And they were all right. We love them. We enjoy all the times with them. Even when I have a bad day in practice or in general, they always come up to you full of love like nothing that happened, nothing you need to really worry about. I really, really love them.”

First Olympic memory - and a surprise inspiration

Uno said his first true Olympic memory is watching countryman Takahashi Daisuke win the bronze medal in men’s singles at Vancouver 2010, and while many people – Takahashi included – have been influential to Uno in his career, only one sticks out as the most inspirational.

Himself.

“During my life, of course I have inspired by many, many people and have had great words from everyone, too,” he explained. “In the end, you endure that, you break it down and you make it into your own world. In the end I do feel as though it is myself that inspires [me]. I don't tend to listen to anyone... I just go with my own mind. I listen, but I don't listen.”

Sounds like just the kind of person who should star in their own film.

GO OLYMPIC. GET ALL THIS.

Free live sport events. Unlimited access to series. Unrivalled Olympic news & highlights.