In theory, Japanese Nationals should be the can't-miss men's national event of the season, as the place where Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno, two of the top three men in the world, face off. However, in reality, Hanyu has missed the last three in a row due to illness or injury, so Uno has sleepwalked to the win. And he did again here, despite rocky performances due to injury issues. He's been better.
The interesting story was the capstone to the domestic comeback by Daisuke Takahashi, the 32-year-old 2010 World Champion and 2010 Olympic bronze medalist who retired after the 2014 World Championships, but decided to return to competition this year. The jumps in the free skate were iffy, but he won the silver medal.
Content, apparently, with what he had already achieved, Takahashi declined offered tickets to compete at the Four Continents and World Championships, so it seems this is it for him. He's a masterful performer even when the jumps aren't going great -- those steps are marvelous -- and if this is goodbye again, he will be missed.
Over to the ladies.
Wakaba Higuchi, the reigning World silver medalist, coming off a seriously disappointing autumn marred by injury that kept her from really building momentum in the way she must have been hoping to, placed fifth overall. She had a really fun short program, at least, though the free was a struggle. This is pretty much the end of the season for her, sadly, so better luck next year, Wakaba.
In fourth place, Mai Mihara, who would be national champion if she skated for almost any other country.
The other Japanese medalist at last year's Worlds, and the four-time and defending Japanese national champion, Satoko Miyahara, lead the short program, then fell to third in the free skate. These programs have been covered in previous posts, but seriously, this is art people. Enjoy it while you can.
The person most would have picked as the favourite to win the event, the undefeated Grand Prix Final champion Rika Kihira, went into the event struggling with boot issues that she inadvertently made worse by taping up her boots before the short program in an unhelpful fashion. She not only fell on the triple Axel there, but only managed a double toe loop instead of a triple. She had some ground to make up in the free skate, and did, winning silver overall.
And the gold? That went to Kaori Sakamoto, in a great turnaround after just missing the podium at the Grand Prix Final and an up-and-down Grand Prix season.
Also, Marin Honda remains committed to squandering her oodles of natural talent. Fifteenth place, Marin? You were Junior World Champion!
To warm your heart at Christmastime, former British ice dance champions Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland are engaged
Last night after an amazing weekend with our families, in a romantic igloo on the river, next to Tower Bridge and under London’s beautiful Christmas Lights.... my best friend asked me to marry him. We have been together since we were teenagers, shared ups & downs and travelled the world together. I am the luckiest girl in the world because I get to share the rest of my life with someone who truly is the love of my life. You make me happier than I could ever imagine and more loved than I ever thought possible... You have made me a better person, so I am truly blessed to be a part of your life. I love you more than words can say @n_buckland Thank you for choosing me to be your Fiancée ♥️💍
Skating together since they were both sixteen, and romantically involved for most of that time, the duo competed at three Olympics (Vancouver through Pyeongchang), making the last one despite a knee fracture injury to Penny that cost them a whole season in the leadup. They've only said they're taking this season off, but most people are expecting a retirement announcement in the near future. With that in mind, enjoy what may end up having been their goodbye to competitive skating:
Coomes & Buckland 2018