Sota Yamamoto: “I feel like I’ve grown a lot this season. So I want to practice without any regrets and do my best at the World Championships. I want to show an even stronger version of myself.”
Article and small interview with Sota Yamamoto ahead of World Championships.
source: jbpress.ismedia.jp dd. 10 March 2023 by Takaomi Matsubara
! Please take into account that interview was translated via machine translation so it may not be completely accurate or conveying all the details and nuances. !
First World Championships. How long has it taken to get to this point?
For Sota Yamamoto, the World Championships held in Saitama will be his first appearance on such a level. The great difficulties he faced in his career and the process of getting up to where he is today are well known among figure skating fans.
Yamamoto, who celebrated his 23rd birthday in January of this year, has been attracting attention in the world of figure skating since early on. In the 2014-2015 season, in his third junior year, he won a silver medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final and also climbed onto the podium with a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships.
With his long arms and legs, graceful skating, and outstanding jumps, expectations were high for his future. He was even believed as having the potential to become a representative for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
In the following season, he successfully landed a quadruple toe loop in an international competition. He competed in the Junior Grand Prix Final and won a bronze medal for the second year in a row. At the Japanese nationals, he placed 6th among senior skaters, marking his presence in the upper echelon for the second consecutive year.
However, an accident happened at the end of the season. In March 2016, he broke his right ankle while practicing the triple axel and had to withdraw from the World Junior Championships.
Although he returned to the ice after the injury healed, he suffered from fatigue fractures of his right ankle twice in July and October, and had to undergo three surgeries, forcing him to take a long break. He also had to withdraw from the entire 2016-2017 Grand Prix series, which he had been scheduled to participate in.
He made his comeback at the Chubu Championships in September 2017, one season later. His program consisted of only single jumps.
From there, he gradually approached his original performance. He regained his triple jumps and increased their difficulty, and then included quadruple jumps into his program.
Still, there were times when he felt frustrated that he couldn’t perform the way he wanted to.
In 2020, after finishing ninth at the Japanese Championships, Yamamoto said:
“In terms of skating age, I feel like I’m entering the second half or the turning point, but I can only do this kind of performance. I wonder if I can still grow, and if there’s a future for me.”
Even though it seemed like he was making progress, he struggled with his own potential. But he didn’t give up.
And now in his fifth season since returning in September 2017, Yamamoto is off to a good start.
At the French Grand Prix, which was Yamamoto’s first Grand Prix event, he placed second. He climbed onto the podium for the first time at a Grand Prix event and secured his spot in the Grand Prix Final by placing second again at the NHK Trophy.
He continued his strong performance at the Grand Prix Final. In the short program, he placed second, and in the free skate, he achieved a personal best of 179.49 points, resulting in a total score of 274.35 points and a second-place finish.
Although he experienced multiple failures at the Japanese Nationals and placed fifth, his performance throughout the season was still remarkable, and he was selected to represent Japan at the World Championships.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot this season, but I couldn’t perform well in this competition (Japanese Nationals), so I want to practice without any regrets and do my best at the World Championships. I want to show an even stronger version of myself.”
The day after Nationals, at the exhibition gala he performed to “Poeta.”
“Poeta” was his short program for the 2015-2016 season, before he sustained a long-term injury and took a break from skating.
Seven years have passed since then, and it seems that there is a special meaning behind his decision to choose “Poeta” once again. His performance in the same costume reminded us of the time that has passed.
At the same time, it reminds of a certain figure that has evolved as a skater from that youthful time. The first major stage that he will face at the age of 23 is a place that includes all the ups and downs of his past, and on the ice, he swears to deliver a performance that will lead him further towards the future, having overcome many thoughts and emotions at this point.
Rinka Watanabe: “There are times when I wonder if I’m good enough, but standing on the ice at competitions I’m proud to be able to see the scenery that I saw from the outside nine years ago.”