Cherry Blossom

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This video beautifully captures Junhwan Cha’s remarkable journey, starting from the enchanting streets of Tokyo in search of cherry blossoms to the exhilarating world of competitive Figure Skating.

Despite the pressure and intensity of the World Championships, the 21 year old approached each performance with a beaming smile and an undeniable joy for skating. Junhwan has undoubtedly carved his name in the annals of Figure Skating history as he became the first Korean man to win a medal at an ISU Championships.

Figure skating is finally ready for same-sex teams on the ice

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It was spring 2022, and the Winter Olympics season had finally come to a close. Under the glare of fluorescent lights in a nearly empty arena in London, Ontario, two of figure skating’s most decorated athletes circled each other with ease. Four years—knocked askew by the pandemic, injuries, and illnesses—had just culminated in both receiving medals they’d worked toward for their entire careers. Now, with no upcoming competition, no pressure, and no expectations, they took each other by the hand and glided across the ice.

As piano echoed over the sound system, they began to dance, their bodies matching effortlessly, limbs stretching in identical lines, torsos coiling. With their arms wrapped around each other tightly, they unfurled to spin around in endless motion. Improvisation became choreography, and they alternated between carving across the ice and laughing at a botched move. Over and over, they practiced a Fred Astaire–style dip until it was easy. Cheek to cheek, then far apart with just a single push, the pair forged a new routine.

From the way they moved in perfect harmony, you’d never guess that they had never competed together. They looked every bit the pros they were. But there was one unusual thing about them: Both were women. For close friends like Gabriella Papadakis and Madison Hubbell—and any two figure skaters who want to compete with a same-gender partner—skating as a team had long been forbidden.

The International Skating Union, or ISU, expressly prohibits same-gender teams in competition. Pair skating and ice dance teams have both been defined as “one Woman and one Man” since the 1950s, and while athletes of the same gender can skate together in synchronized skating—which showcases teams of eight to 16—competitive rules for teams of two have remained strictly man and woman.

But several months after Papadakis and Hubbell had that private skate session, there was a startling change. In September 2022, in a unanimous ruling, Skate Canada, the country’s figure skating governing body, made history when it removed all gendered language from its competition rulebook, redefining teams as “Partner A and Partner B.” For the first time, same-gender teams and out nonbinary athletes using correct pronouns would be able to compete at Canada’s national events.

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Shoma wins World’s 2023

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Shoma Uno repeated as world figure skating champion, performing the total package of jumps and artistry immediately after 18-year-old American Ilia Malinin attempted a record-tying six quadruple jumps in his free skate to earn the bronze medal.

Shoma was in the lead after Thursday’s short program and eventually prevailed with five quad attempts in Saturday’s free skate. He finished, fell backward and lay on home ice in Saitama, soaking in a standing ovation amid a sea of Japanese flags. Japan won three of the four gold medals this week, and Shoma capped it off with guts coming off a fairly severe ankle injury.

If the video is blocked in your country, here’s one without the commentary

He is the face of Japanese men’s skating after two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu retired in July and Olympic silver medallist Yuma Kagiyama missed most of this season with leg and ankle injuries.

“There were many shaky jumps today, but I’m happy I was able to get a good result despite not being in a good condition these past two weeks,” Shoma said. “I know I caused a lot of concerns to everyone around me, but I was able to pay them back and show my gratitude with my performance today.”

Shoma wins Grand Prix final

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World champion Shoma Uno skated last and delivered – registering the best free skate score of his career. His Japanese teammate Yamamoto Sota was second, Ilia Malinin of the U.S. third.

Shoma Uno just keeps getting better. The reigning world champion and three-time Olympic medallist will turn 25 years old next week and gave himself an early birthday present in the post-Olympic season, capturing his first Grand Prix Final title on Saturday (10 December) at the Torino Palavela in Turin, Italy.

Uno was sensational in the free skate, scoring a career-best 204.47 to win by some 30 points, registering a 304.46 to beat countryman Yamamoto Sota at 274.35, while American Ilia Malinin jumped from fifth in the short program to finish in third at 271.94.

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