Keiji Tanaka JPN
2018 Japan Nationals free skate
If you've followed me during the season, you know that Keiji Tanaka's cigarette litter miming was one of my favorite things. But that's not (really) why this program made the countdown.
Once a junior phenom - Tanaka was the World Junior silver medalist back in 2011 - his career was fizzling right before his eyes the four years after that initial success. But he did something that few skaters have managed to do; he regained consistency and reset his career. Though he came into last season as the solid third-best in Japan, his season going into Nationals was bumpy, dealing with a hip injury that forced him out of one of his Grand Prix events.
This performance wasn't perfect, but it was gutsy. He knew he was dealing with a resurgent Takahito Mura for that third spot on the Olympic team. And instead of playing it safe, Tanaka made the best of this all-important skate. Over halfway through his program, he hit a quad toe for the first time in his career. It gave him the necessary cushion to grab that third spot for PyeongChang.