UPDATED NOVEMBER 29
Eastern Sectionals (junior and senior ladies/men) take place Nov. 6-8 in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture. Some of the top names scheduled to compete include Wakaba Higuchi, Marin Honda, Yuna Aoki, Tomoe Kawabata, Yuka Nagai, Yuma Kagiyama and Shun Sato.
Results of East Japan Sectionals – Kofu City
|1. Wakaba Higuchi 203.24
2. Shiika Yoshioka 174.12
3. Rinka Watanabe 167.19
4. Akari Matsubara 163.12
5. Tomoe Kawabata 155.97
6. Yuka Nagai 154.20
7. Hirotani Honoka 153.42
8. Yuna Aoki 152.45
9. Rika Oya 151.97
10. Marin Honda 144.11
1. Shun Sato 229.18
1. Kaori Sakamoto 200.23
2. Mai Mihara 194.87
3. Rin Nitaya 187.82
4. Mana Kawabe 186.73
5. Yuna Shiraiwa 185.29
6. Mako Yamashita 181.46
7. Yuhana Yokoi 168.83
8. Takeno Hina 162.07
9. Yuna Matsuda 161.27
10. Rika Hongo 161.27
Kaori Sakamoto won the short, finished second in the free — a result that she was totally dissatisfied with — but claimed top spot overall. Returning to her ″Matrix″ long.program for a second season, the program lacked vitality in the second half and popping a planned triple loop at the end did not help her cause. ″Honestly, I thought it was a pathetic performance. I was able to do it as usual in the first half, but it collapsed in the second half. It’s the most pitiful thing that I’ve done this kind of acting in public,″ she said.
Mai Mihara won the free skate by less than a point over Sakamoto (Mihara 130,37 and Sakamoto 129.83). Mihara’s only mistake was popping the opening jump of a planned double Axel-triple toe combination midway through the program. Backstage, Mihara said she was happy with the result, but disappointed with her performance.
1. Sota Yamamoto 221.22
2. Kazuki Tomono 212.92
3. Keiji Tanaka 211.05
4. Mitsuki Sumoto 202.14
5. Ryuju Hino 199.45
6. Sumitada Moriguchi 190.69
7. Taichi Honda 177.17
It was not clear sailing for Sota Yamamoto but he scored a come from behind win after finishing second in the short program. Aside from a fall on the quad toe loop in the second half of his long program to “The Dragon’s Heartbeat, he executed strong spins and a step sequence that all earned Level 4s. ″I really wanted to win. Yesterday, I thought I couldn’t finish it as it was. I was disturbed in the second half, but I think the first half was a performance that I managed to keep up with,″ he said.
Shortly after winning the 2016 Youth Olympic Games, Yamamoto fractured his right ankle. He had three surgeries and did not return to competition until late 2017. ″I’ve lost confidence in getting results since I was injured. But lately, I’ve become more confident in myself and I’m no longer scared. I’ve lost confidence, but I’ve returned to this point. I felt a lot of regret, and although I may still be on a steep road, I never gave up even in practice.″
The 2020 All Japan Championships are scheduled to take place Dec. 23-27 in Nagano. In light of the current situation, some concessions have been made by the federation. Satoko Miyahara, fourth at 2019 nationals, has been given a bye to the Championships. The exception for Miyahara, who trains in Canada, was based on her body of work last season, including being named to the 2020 World team. This alleviates the necessity of her having to return to Japan to compete at a regional or sectional competition.
The criterion for earning a place on the team for the 2021 World Championships was also announced. Japan has three places for men and ladies, and one each in pairs and ice dance in Stockholm.
Skaters must compete at the 2020 Championships to be eligible for Worlds (with a caveat). The winners of each discipline will automatically be named to the team, but the remaining places will be determined by respective results on the Grand Prix Series and the subsequent ISU World Standing ranking. A limited number of spectators will be permitted to attend.
Given that Yuzuru Hanyu has opted not to compete on the Grand Prix stages for health and safety reasons, it is possible he may also miss the national championships, but would be ready and willing to go to the World Championships if the global situation no longer poses a health threat.
The current situation with COVID-19 makes it impossible at this time for this selection criterion to be written in stone. The federation has reserved the right to review and make changes after the Grand Prix Series and following the conclusion of the Grand Prix Final (whenever that may be).
The new ice dance team of Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi were scheduled to make their debut at the Western Japan Sectional Championships, which take place Oct. 30 – Nov. 1, but on Oct. 16 the Japanese federation announced they have been given a bye to nationals. The team is currently training in Florida, so this alleviates any need to travel and associated risk.
In its press release, the federation stated: ″Every year, the exemption is one week before and after the international competition, but for the target athletes whose training base is overseas, there are currently both overseas and Japanese isolation/waiting periods before and after travel. Since it has not been mitigated, the above-mentioned competitions are exempted for the purpose of minimizing the risk of infection with the new coronavirus when traveling and minimizing the quarantine/waiting period.″
Koshiro Shimada who trains in Switzerland and the pairs team of Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara who train in Canada were also given byes to nationals.
Japan has provisionally been allotted the 2023 World Championships, which would once again take place in Saitama. Tentative dates are March 20-26.
Following a Sept. 1 board meeting, the Japan Skating federation announced it would host the 2020 Japan Open at the Saitama Super Arena on Oct. 3 in a modified format.
Due to the travel restrictions currently in place, only Japanese skaters will contest the event this year. The federation has named the athletes that will compete: Wakaba Higuchi, Tomoe Kawabata, Yuhana Yokoi, Mako Yamashita, Sota Yamamoto, Lucas Tsuyoshi Honda, Ryuju Hino, Hana Yoshida, Chisato Uramatsu and a professional skater, Hiroaki Sato. An injury forced Keiji Tanaka to withdraw from this competition. Likewise, Marin Honda has withdrawn after dislocating her shoulder and Mako Yamashita has been added to the roster in her place.
Shoma Uno, Rika Kihira and Koshiro Shimada are currently training in Switzerland and will not be returning to Japan for this competition.
Red team: Tomoe Kawabata, Mako Yamashita, Chisato Uramatsu, Lucas Tsuyoshi Honda, Ryuju Hino
Blue team: Wakaba Higuchi, Yuhana Yokoi, Hanna Yoshida, Sota Yamamoto, Hiroaki Sato
A gala show ″Carnival on Ice″ will take place in the same venue following the competition and will feature the skaters that competed in the 2020 Japan Open, as well as Akiko Suzuki and the ice dance team of Misato Komatsubara and Timothy Koleto. A highlight for fans will be the debut of Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi at this show. Limited spectators will be permitted to attend both the competition and the show. TV Tokyo, the host broadcaster, will air both the competition and show on Japanese television. A live stream will be available for a fee.
Nathan Chen and Mariah Bell will make virtual appearances at both the competition and the show. Reigning U.S. champion Alysa Liu will perform virtually on ″Carnival on Ice.″
Two regional competitions take place Oct. 1-4.
Kinki Regionals – ladies results:
1. Kaori Sakamoto 74.88/143.47/218.35
4. Mana Kawabe 57.92/130.56/188.48
3. Mai Mihara 59.69/113.69/173.38
Kanto Regionals – men’s results:
1. Yuma Kagiyama 98.46/188.75/287.21
2. Shun Sato 77.90/120.52/198.42