As many as 1,292 fans were admitted into the 36,500-seat Saitama Super Arena for the all-Japanese version of the Japan Open figure skating competition. Led by the team’s top ladies’ skater Wakaba Higuchi and the team’s top men’s performer Sato Yamamoto, the Blue team defeated the Red team by exactly four points.
This year, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the competition went from the traditional format of Japan vs Europe vs North America to an altered version – Team Blue vs Team Red, featuring only locally residing and training athletes.
The men were the first to skate. Team Red’s Lucas Tsuyoshi Honda was the first of the competitors to step onto the ice, and his score remained the competition’s highest mark. Without any quadruple jumps and with two triple axels to start his program, the 18-year-old posted a score of 137.99 points.
Former World Junior bronze medalist Sota Yamamoto attempted three quads, getting penalized for a repetition because of two quadruple toe loops, and was just two one hundredths off the top overall score, earning 137.97 points. The 20-year-old did receive a higher total program component score – 73 points to Honda’s 69.64 points.
Team Red’s Ryuju Hino had an unsuccessful day on the ice, falling three times and receiving a four-point deduction, and got a total score of 120.37 points; Team Blue’s Hiroaki Sato placed last among the men with two falls – including for an unsuccessful opening quad attempt – and an overall score of 119.52 points.
Men’s full results:
The ladies were led by Mako Yamashita. 17-year-old Yamashita did not attempt a quad salchow but, perhaps, completed the cleanest program of all of the skaters – male or female. Double axels at the beginning of the routine and a triple lutz, triple toe loop, double toe loop combination near the end earned her a deduction-free total score of 126.94 points.
Having earned more than two extra points for the total program component score – 62.94 points compared to Yamashita’s 60.80 points – 2018 World silver medalist Wakaba Higuchi opened her free skate with a successful triple axel. The following triple lutz, triple toe loop combination was promising for the lead but two singled jumps later in the program – a loop and then a lutz – cost her points. Higuchi received a total score of 123.01 points.
Last season’s Japanese National bronze medalist Tomoe Kawabata under-rotated two of the first three jumping sequences, and also fell on her final triple salchow attempt for a total score of 112.63 points. Former Japanese Junior National champion Yuhana Yokoi also suffered from under-rotations and a fall. The 20-year-old was well short of a personal best-like score, receiving 109.57 points from the judges.
Just 19th at the Japanese Nationals last season, 15-year-old Hana Yoshida opened her free skate with a triple axel attempt but could not land successfully. An unsuccessful triple loop attempt left more points on the table but she received 107.56 points. Another young skater, who placed 7th at Japanese Junior Nationals and 15th at Japanese Senior Nationals last season, Chisato Uramatsu could have made a difference in the overall team results but jumps landed on the wrong edge and multiple negative GOEs earned her a double digit total score of 95.70 points.
Ladies’ full results:
Full 2020 Japan Open results: