Photo: Courtesy International Skating Union

For the second competition this season, Japan’s Shoma Uno was left to reflect on what might have been. Following his unexpected fourth place finish at the World Championships two weeks earlier, he was looking for redemption at the 2021 World Team Trophy.

Uno finished ninth in the short program in Osaka following a step out/turn out of the opening quad flip and a fall on the opening jump of a planned quad toe loop-triple toe loop, which left him with no combination.

He was understandably disheartened when his score of 77.46 was posted. “Immediately after my performance I definitely felt that I was letting the team down — and of course this is a team event after all,” he said. “And also, I was thinking about how important the daily practice is when you are doing your jumps, the transitions and the steps cleanly. That really hit home. I don’t think I am even qualified enough to be disappointed in myself.”

The Nagoya native took full responsibility for not doing any full run-throughs of his program since Worlds, admitting that instead he worked on individual elements such as the jumps. “Little by little, I thought that I was doing better. But after Worlds I had never really practiced my entire program. I now know that I need to practice the program as a whole, and now that I have this result I at least want to look forward to doing a better program for my free skate and be less of a burden on my team compared to today.”

Unfortunately, things did not go well in the free skate either, with a fall on the opening triple Axel-quad toe combination and another on a solo quad toe. Midway through the routine he singled the flip on a three-jump combination and switched out a planned triple Lutz for a triple Axel, but doubled the jump. Uno finished sixth in the segment with 164.96 points, far below his personal best of 197.36.

“I am not in very good condition,” he admitted. “It is a team event where the points are something that I have to contribute to. I feel sorry for my poor performance to my teammates but I do not think that my teammates want me to say I am sorry. I am grateful for this great opportunity to be part of a team.

“Figure skating is an individual sport and everyone is trying to do their best for the team so I did not want to weigh them down. For skaters who could not put their best performance it is not about the mistake. Everyone is telling each other it is about how satisfied you are that you did your best, so my teammates have been there for me throughout this whole experience and they have supported me much more than I could do for them.

“If I did not take part … we have so much talent in Japan so maybe someone else might have done better in my place and we could have been at the top of the podium. But having said that, I am here.

“For my short program, in my heart I was still reluctant and hesitant about a lot of things, so I am embarrassed and I feel sorry. But regret is not what I need to work on. What I need to work on is to cheer for and be there for my team. There is still tomorrow so I am just going to be there to cheer them on.”

Uno had planned to end his season in Stockholm but when he was named to the team for this competition he had to do a mental reset. “Now I am here at the World Team Trophy and I guess, for me, it is a challenge. That is the meaning of this competition on a personal level. Of course, just as equal to that is how I can contribute to the team.”

Uno admitted he knew beforehand that as he did not do 100 percent in practice, he could not do 100 percent in a competition. That fact became even more abundantly clear to him following his free skate. “Coming into the World Team Trophy, I was thinking that my practice and dedication was not enough. So it is not about my training methods, etc. I should have been more dedicated, more involved and absorbed in the competition at an earlier stage.

“This is a competition so the moment I stand on the ice it is not only about success. Every time I make a mistake I feel bad about it and sad. So, looking back on this competition, I ask myself why couldn’t I really resolve to work hard and compete well?

“With the performance today I really understood the importance of training. I know that what I practiced day in and day out was not a waste, but at the same time, my resolve to put on a good performance was not sufficient. That is one big regret I will have to live with but I know that this is going to have a positive effect on me as a skater going forward.

“As for future challenges — what I felt at Worlds and nationals — there is something I lack. I need to grow more, so I want to be motivated to improve myself and grow further. I know I need to have a good rest and then get back into training. So perseverance is important, but at the same time, it is about my personal motivation and where my psyche is. I really have to feel that I can enjoy figure skating so I need to be in better control of my emotions when I train as well.

“I guess for next season … I hope that ending this season with regret will work as a positive element. There are a lot of ice shows and there is a lot to work on during the offseason.

“I need a quad Salchow and a quad loop, which are other challenges for me. So there are a lot of challenges that I need to work on, but there is room for growth. I don’t know how long it is going to take, but I hope to challenge everything I can.”