The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current, January 04, 2016, Page Page 13, Image 13

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    January 4, 2016
Asians in American sports w Asian Americans in world sports
Grand Prix Final features record-setting Asian talent
By Mike Street
Special to The Asian Reporter
s in many other sports, figure skating has become
dominated by athletes of Asian heritage,
especially on the men’s side. That dominance was
on display at this year’s Grand Prix Final in Barcelona,
Spain, in December. Although one female Asian star
failed to live up to expectations, a Japanese men’s star set
new records on the way to a three-peat victory. Plenty of
others skated well, too, suggesting that figure-skating
fans will continue to look east for years to come.
Atop this heap of young Asian stars is Yuzuru Hanyu,
the 21-year-old Olympic champion from Japan. He broke
his own records en route to his third straight Grand Prix
Final championship, the first skater ever to do so. Hanyu
emerged as a leading men’s skater since winning the
Junior Grand Prix Final in 2009. He followed it with a
2010 world junior championship and his 2014 Olympic
gold medal in Sochi, the first ever by a Japanese men’s
At the NHK Trophy in November, Hanyu set new
scoring records for the free skate (216.07) and in overall
points (322.40). In the process, he became the first skater
ever to notch at least 300 points overall and the first to
earn 200 points in the free skate. Not content to rest on his
newly earned laurels, Hanyu improved on those marks in
Landing three quadruple jumps and two triple Axels, he
earned a score of 219.48, pushing his overall mark to
330.43. His 110.95 short-program score was also a new
record. In addition, Hanyu’s 37.48-point margin of victory
set a record, not only in the Grand Prix but also in any
international competition.
“People may think my scores are wonderful,” Hanyu
said after setting so many records in Barcelona. “But I feel
more motivated when I hear people say they like my
performance and they want to watch it again.” Nonethe-
less, Hanyu will need to continue his hot scoring streak if
he hopes to win at the World Championships in March and
at the 2018 Olympics.
Hanyu’s record-setting margin of victory at the Grand
Prix Final put him ahead of Javier Fernandez of Spain for
the second straight year. Third place went to 19-year-old
Shoma Uno of Japan. Uno won last year’s Junior Grand
Prix Final and is the reigning junior world champion.
Following Uno were a trio of Asian skaters: Canadian
Patrick Chan (who has Chinese roots), Boyang Jin of
China, and Daisuke Murakami, who has represented both
Japan and the United States in international competition.
Nathan Chen, an American of Taiwanese descent, took
the junior title, proving that there will be plenty of Asian
male figure-skating talent in the pipeline.
On the women’s side, much attention was focused on
Japan’s Mao Asada, who took a year off from competitive
skating before returning earlier this year at the Cup of
China. The three-time world champion and 2010 Olympic
silver medalist won despite falling in the short program,
but Asada slipped to third in the NHK Trophy a few weeks
later. Unfortunately, this downward trajectory continued
at the Grand Prix Finals.
After a short program performance that put her in third
place, Asada stumbled through a lackluster free skate.
She lacked confidence throughout and seemed to
surrender after an error three-fourths of the way through
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EXCEPTIONAL ICE SKATING. Yuzuru Hanyu (left photo) and
Mao Asada (right photo) of Japan perform during the finals of the Grand
Prix Final figure-skating competition in Barcelona, Spain. (AP Photos/
Manu Fernandez)
her routine. She placed sixth, last place among the
finalists. “I’m very disappointed I couldn’t perform the
way I wanted to,” Asada said after the competition. “I had
a lot of mistakes, I have to change my mindset, refocus,
and do better at the next competition.”
Any disappointment that Asian sports fans might have
felt at Asada’s performance was redeemed by Satoko
Miyahara. The 17-year-old Japanese skater stands just
4’10”, but she towered over the competition in the free
Despite her strong performance, she finished 14 points
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behind the winner, Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia. The
silver medal capped off an excellent 2015 for Miyahara,
who also placed second at the World Championships and
won Japan’s national championship.
All of these skaters, as well as their fans, have their eyes
on the World Championships in Boston and the 2018
Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Mao Asada will hope to
regain her top form, while Yuzuru Hanyu will try to retain
his. Whether they shine or stumble, they will see plenty of
pressure from other Asian talent, keeping Asian-
American sports fans happy well into the future.
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