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Mao Shimada (JPN) ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships march2023 ISU L1471109069

Mao Shimada (JPN) skates at the 2023 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Calgary, Alberta. @ISU

Here she comes again: Japan’s Mao Shimada gets ready to shine on the ISU Junior circuit. The 14-year-old won each international competition she entered in the past season, including the ISU World Junior Championships and Junior Grand Prix Final titles.

“My most memorable experience was the Junior Worlds,” Mao recalled. “I had made a very frustrating experience at the Nationals and after that I went to Junior Worlds. Before (the competition), I wasn’t able to get into a good shape and then the competition had already started. Despite (these circumstances), I was able to pull off a good short and Free Program, that’s why this event left a strong impression on me.”

Shimada has been named in honor of three-time ISU World Champion and Japanese super star Mao Asada and follows in her footsteps. Like Asada, she made a splash on the international scene right in her debut season and like Asada, she has the triple Axel in her arsenal. However, on top of that, the “new Mao” has mastered the quadruple toeloop.

“Last season my goal was to nail both jumps (4T and 3A),” the Japanese youngster pointed out. “At the last Junior Worlds, the toeloop was a little bit under-rotated, but I was able to pull off both jumps and I think I was able to achieve my goal,” she shared. “If I show a good performance, a high score will follow,” she noted. However, in general she does not focus on scores.

However, even though it looked like Shimada easily skated from victory to victory, she had to overcome some challenges. “The last season was my first time to compete in foreign countries and it was very hard for me to adapt to the time difference,” Mao explained. “Especially when I went to Junior Worlds in Canada the time difference was even more challenging than when I went to Europe. So before going to Junior Worlds I started to adapt to the time difference while back in Japan and so it wasn’t too hard anymore when I came to Canada.”

With her first ISU Junior Grand Prix assignment on home ice in Osaka around the corner, Mao has been busy over the summer to prepare her new programs. She has worked with renowned choreographer Lori Nichol on her new Free Skating set to “Benedictus” by Karl Jenkins and with three-time World Ice Dance medalist Kaitlyn Weaver on her new Short Program to “Americano” and she is eager to present them to the judges and the audience. Shimada plans again the quad toe and triple Axel in her Free Skating.

“I am mainly working on my new programs and to land my jumps”, the ISU World Junior Champion confirmed. “I have been also working on my expression with a ballet teacher who is taking care of me focusing on all my body movements.”

Shimada, who started to skate after trying it at an amusement park when she was five, fell in love with the sport right away. Four years ago she moved with her family from Tokyo to Kyoto to train at the Kinoshita Academy under Mie Hamada and her team. Mao excels not only in jumps, but also in spins and they are her favorite element.

Mao Shimada ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final 2022 Turin ISU 1447964489

Mao Shimada (JPN) at the 2022 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Turin, Italy. @ISU

A busy season is ahead and in addition to the ISU Junior Grand Prix and the ISU Junior World Championships, Shimada has set her eyes on the Youth Olympic Games as a major goal of the season.

“I want to maintain my position and keep improving my personal best," she said. “I am mostly looking forward to showing everyone my new programs.”