For a third year in a row, the All Japan Championships will be missing its biggest star, Yuzuru Hanyu. Two years ago, it was the flu; last year and this year, it’s an ankle injury. But that won’t take away from the intrigue and drama that are bound to happen in Osaka this week. In the men’s event, we will see the return of five-time champ Daisuke Takahashi as he looks to rebuild for the international stage. For the ladies, the question is can Rika Kihira sustain her incredible run this season - and for the first time, as the favorite.
All Japan Championships predictions
Unofficial hashtag: #JN2019
Ladies Top 10 Predictions
GOLD Rika Kihira
SILVER Kaori Sakamoto
BRONZE Satoko Miyahara
4. Mai Mihara
5. Marin Honda
6. Yuna Shiraiwa
7. Wakaba HIguchi
8. Yuhana Yokoi
9. Mako Yamashita
10. Nana Araki
Kihira, the freshly-minted Grand Prix Final champion, comes into Japan Nationals in a position she’s never really been in before, as the favorite in a major event. It will be a test of whether or not she can handle the nerves, and an indication of how the rest of her season might pan out. But we can’t forget that there are as many as six or seven other women here who could figure into the podium picture, including four-time and defending champion Satoko Miyahara. Grand Prix Final was a bit of a miss for her, but she’s been strong all season and she will look to find her stride again here.
Last year’s silver medalist, Kaori Sakamoto, continues to impress, most recently with a fourth-place finish at Grand Prix Final. She will need to avoid the concentration lapses that have unraveled two of her short programs this season. Perhaps the biggest unknown here will be Wakaba Higuchi, who has been on the Japanese podium three times in her career. But since winning silver at Worlds last season, she hasn’t been anywhere close to that form with a foot injury earlier in the season. Have the two months since her last competition been enough for her to return to form?
Men Top 10 Predictions
GOLD Shoma Uno
SILVER Daisuke Takahashi
BRONZE Kazuki Tomono
4. Keiji Tanaka
5. Sota Yamamoto
6. Koshiro Shimada
7. Ryuju Hino
8. Hiroaki Sato
9. Yuto Kishina
10. Yuma Kagiyama
Without Hanyu here again, Shoma Uno is poised to walk away with his third consecutive title. Fans will be anticipating his skating here, but they will also be anticipating the showdown for silver - and likely, the third spot for the Japanese men at Worlds.
The last time we saw Daisuke Takahashi in international competition was his sixth-place finish at the Sochi Olympics almost five years ago. His return this season was a surprise to many, considering he’s now 32 and his very first senior international season was (gasp) 16 years ago. He may or may not have a quad this week, but if his performances are anything like his performances at Sectionals last month, that silver is very much within reach.
Standing in Takahashi’s way are two talented but inconsistent men with quads. And it would be that higher level of technical difficulty that could spoil Takahashi’s return. Kazuki Tomono was fifth at Worlds last season and Keiji Tanaka has won silver at Japan Nationals the past two seasons - they will be in a fight for the podium.
GOLD Miu Suzaki/Ryuichi Kihara
SILVER Riku Miura/Shoya Ichihashi
GOLD Misato Komatsubara/Timothy Koleto
SILVER Kiria Hirayama/Axel Lamasse
BRONZE Mio Iida/Kenta Ishibashi
Pairs and ice dance both have clear favorites here. Miu Suzaki/Ryuichi Kihara will be looking to repeat as Japanese champs, while Misato Komatsubara/Timothy Koleto have pocketed a lot of international experience this season and look to round out their national medals with gold this week.