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Japan's Uno retains world figure skating title

25 March 2023, MVT 18:33
Gold medallist Japan's Shoma Uno poses during the medal ceremony for the men's free skating during the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2023 in Saitama on March 25, 2023. (Photo by Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP)
25 March 2023, MVT 18:33

Shoma Uno retained his figure skating world title and gave host country Japan more to celebrate after a nerveless performance in the free skate Saturday in Saitama, north of Tokyo.

Uno held off a challenge from American teenager Ilia Malinin -- who became the first skater ever to land a quadruple axel at a world championships -- to claim gold in front of a packed crowd.

Uno's victory gave Japan its third gold medal of the competition, after Kaori Sakamoto retained her women's title the previous night and Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the pairs event.

Uno went into this week's competition struggling with his jumps and hurt his ankle in a practice fall on the eve of the short programme.

But he stamped his class all over the event to earn an overall score of 301.14 and finish ahead of South Korea's Cha Jun-hwan on 296.03 and third-place Malinin on 288.44.

"These past two weeks have been very tough because I've been in bad shape and I have caused problems for the people around me," said the 25-year-old.

"But I was able to pay them back and show my gratitude with my performance today."

Beginning his routine to "Air On The G String", Uno glided around the ice but stumbled on an early jump.

He delivered the rest of his programme with smooth precision, however, earning a standing ovation from the adoring crowd.

He collapsed to the ice at the end of his routine, then gave a quiet smile when his victory was confirmed.

"Today's routine was far from perfect but this was everything I could do at this moment and I put everything out there," said Uno.

"Each jump was tricky but I delivered the result."

Uno had to be at his best to beat the 18-year-old Malinin, who lived up to his own hype with another electrifying performance.

Malinin became the first skater ever to land the ultra-difficult quadruple axel in competition in September last year, in only his first season in the senior ranks.

He has dubbed himself "QuadGod", and delivered on his promise on the world stage by nailing the move again with the first jump of his routine.

Skating to "Euphoria" by Labrinth, Malinin dazzled the crowd with his grace and dynamism, although his routine was not flawless and he ended with a smile and a rueful shake of his head.

Malinin's score was not enough to claim silver ahead of Cha, who delivered his James Bond-themed routine without any major mistakes.

© Agence France-Presse

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