Skating his story: Sena Miyake on his Grand Prix experience, programs, and the upcoming Japanese Nationals

Skating his story: Sena Miyake on his Grand Prix experience, programs, and the upcoming Japanese Nationals

To read the Japanese version, click here

After placing sixth at Nationals, being assigned as the third alternate for the Olympic Games, and finishing just off the podium at the Four Continents Championships last season, Sena Miyake of Japan was hoping in October to elevate himself even further at his Grand Prix events. This year, he was assigned to two international Grand Prix events: Skate America and the Grand Prix de France, but was met with frustrating results. Miyake agreed to share his thoughts with us ahead of the Japanese Nationals, where he will be going up against top skaters to try to earn a spot at other major competitions being held this year. The culmination of these events will be the World Championships held in Saitama, Japan from 20-26 March 2023. 

Miyake was born in 2002 in Okayama, Japan, and began skating in 2006. He steadily climbed the ranks over the following years, placing third at Junior Nationals during the 2020-21 season. He made his Grand Prix debut at the 2020 NHK Trophy in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, where he placed ninth: it was a competition where only Japanese athletes skated at the event. 

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At last year’s Japanese Nationals, the three skaters on the podium were those who would go on to compete at the 2022 Olympic Games (Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno, and Yuma Kagiyama). The Japanese federation opted to send the skaters with the next three highest scores to the Four Continents Championships, meaning that Miyake’s sixth place finish enabled him to compete at the event alongside compatriots Kao Miura and Kazuki Tomono.

At the 2022 Four Continents Championships, Miyake delivered two strong skates and attained new personal bests for the short program, free skate and combined total score. He finished in fourth place overall, with the silver and bronze medals won by his Japanese teammates, and the gold medal going to Junhwan Cha of South Korea. Miyake shared that competing in the event helped improve his confidence, “I also felt as though I had finally reached the starting line by being able to compete at the Four Continents Championships’. 

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© Sena Miyake | Instagram

Building on from this successful season, Miyake was assigned to Skate America in July, the first of the six Grand Prix events leading up to the Final. Following Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama’s withdrawal from the Grand Prix de France due to injury, Miyake had the opportunity to compete at Angers. With the 2022-23 season marking the start of a new Olympic cycle, numerous skaters this year have spoken about looking ahead to the next Games, or reflecting upon their long-term goals and objectives. It’s no different with Miyake, who stated before his Grand Prix events that he “would like to use this season to build a foundation for the next few years”, further explaining that “it will be a very good experience for me to get two assignments, so I would like to use these competitions as an opportunity for development.”

For many, Skate America 2022 is synonymous with seventeen-year old phenom Ilia Malinin’s Senior Grand Prix debut success, with the American landing the quad axel in his free skate and earning resounding cheers from the crowd, ultimately winning the gold medal. Also competing against other strong skaters such as Junhwan Cha, Kao Miura and Daniel Grassl, Miyake was unable to put out the performances he wanted to. He fell twice coming out of the triple axel in his short program, resulting in a two-point deduction from his total score. Going into the free skate in sixth place, he had a few falls and a downgraded jumping pass, dropping to ninth place overall. 

At the Grand Prix de France two weeks later, Miyake popped the triple axel into a single. This is considered an invalid element and thus prevented him from gaining crucial points: he finished the short program with the tenth highest score overall. Miyake withdrew from the competition after the short program due to an illness. He expressed that “both of the competitions of the Grand Prix series had very disappointing results”. Nonetheless, he feels that he has “been given a great opportunity to develop further”. Miyake also told us that he’s thinking about how to use these competitions as a springboard for the future, stating that he “would like to use these experiences to put out [his] best performance at Japanese Nationals”.

In both America and France, Miyake skated to ‘Unchained Melody’ in his short program, a track made famous by the 1990 film Ghost. It is a program which he has carried forward into this season after previously skating to it last year. During our conversation, he shared that he “was initially thinking of skating to ‘Liebesträume’ this season, which was choreographed in February this year, but due to factors such as the rule changes, the program that was reworked wasn’t quite clicking.”

He further explained, “That’s why I tested out skating to last year’s program, ‘Unchained Melody’, and decided that I would like to use it again, which is why I have returned to my program from last season.” It’s been a wise choice: ‘Unchained Melody’ enables him to play to all his strengths as a musical and emotive skater; the song begins softly, lyrically, and builds up to a passionate finish. 

These characteristics are also present in his free skate to ‘Titanic’, which shares similarities in style and approach with his ‘Swan Lake’ program last season. The free skate opens as the Titanic sets sail, and brings the audience along for the story, with attention to detail and expression in the step and choreo sequences. Both the ‘Titanic’ and ‘Swan Lake’ programs map out a narrative arc and strive to encapsulate the two different works- one a ballet and the other a film, both large-scale pieces- in just the four minutes of the free skate. It’s a challenging feat, and it is one which he pulls off with skill: “With both last year’s ‘Swan Lake’ and this season’s ‘Titanic’, I listen to the music and imagine things like the flow of the story, or which scene it is,” he explained, “and try to incorporate this into how I express it.” The ‘Swan Lake’ costume from last year is memorable: a prince’s shirt reminiscent of one seen in the ballet, coupled with dark feathers along one shoulder and arm. When asked about the process of envisioning and designing his costumes each year, Miyake explained that “they are made for me based upon an image of the main character of the piece of music or work. The ‘Titanic’ costume was made by drawing upon the protagonist, Jack.” Miyake’s costumes undoubtedly play a large role in helping him emulate these characters- and through them the wider story and world- which creates an experience for the audience and judges that extends beyond just the technical elements such as the jumping passes, important as they may be. 

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© Sena Miyake | Instagram

The concept of growth came up several times in his answers, as he considered the experiences of his career so far whilst also looking ahead towards the future. He is already a skater who has a solid technical arsenal with both a quad toe-loop and salchow, and has versatile capacities ranging from delicate to powerful performances: it is exciting to see how both his TES and PCS develop over the coming competitions and seasons. Asked if there was a particular part of his programs which he wanted audiences and fans to keep an eye out for this year, he replied, “I would like them to see the scale of my skating throughout the entirety of my programs this season. I feel like I have grown a lot, physically, compared to last year, and that my skating skills have also developed.” 

Japan has a notoriously intense competition at Nationals each year, and with four of the six men who qualified for the Grand Prix Final being Miyake’s compatriots, it is clear that the sheer depth of the field promises to make it a thrilling event. In the other disciplines of the competition, skaters we have seen at the Grand Prix this season will face off head-to-head, such as Kaori Sakamoto, Mai Mihara, Rinka Watanabe, Rion Sumiyoshi, and Mana Kawabe, along with ice dancers Kana Muramoto/Daisuke Takahashi and Misato Komatsubara/Tim Koleto, to name a few. Whilst there is a plethora of skaters who Miyake likes or admires, he stated that “out of them, the skater who I admire the most and am aspiring to be like is Daisuke Takahashi”, who used to compete in Men’s singles. 

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© Sena Miyake | Instagram

For Japanese skaters, the World Championships in March will be a special opportunity to skate in front of a home audience, and these Nationals will thus become a chance for each skater to earn a spot at the competition. The last time the event was held in Saitama was 2019, with Yuzuru Hanyu placing second behind American Nathan Chen, Shoma Uno coming in fourth place, and Keiji Tanaka finishing fourteenth. Athletes often speak about the energy and ambiance of a home crowd, and for Miyake it “has been [his] goal since [he] was a child to compete at a World Championship held in Japan”. He continued on to say that “At Japanese Nationals, I would like to make the most of my experiences this season to show my best.”

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© Sena Miyake | Instagram

This season, perhaps more than any other, has brought to the forefront the fundamental question of what figure skating is: a sport, or an art? Whilst the answer is undeniably both, how do the two aspects interact and complement one another? Upon reflection, it is perhaps in the very difficulty of limiting the discipline to one definition where the beauty lies. We have seen time and time again the merging of the technical and the artistic, with skaters themselves occupying roles as both athletes and performers. 

For Miyake, when asked how he would explain figure skating to his five-year-old self in just a few words, his answer was simple: “I guess ‘Your Story’” (laughs)

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氷の上の「物語」:三宅星南選手がグランプリシリーズ、今季プログラム、全日本選手権について語る

To read the English version, click here. 昨シーズン全日本選手権で6位、五輪では三番目の補欠、四大陸選手権で四位という好成績をあげた三宅星南選手は、10月には2つのグランプリ大会に向けてさらなる飛躍を目指していた。三宅選手はスケート・アメリカとグランプリ・フランスに出場したが、残念ながら今回は思うような結果を出すことはできなかった。シーズン集大成となる埼玉での世界選手権(2023年3月20日-26日)への出場権を獲得するため、トップスケーターと対戦する全日本選手権を前に、三宅選手は今の思いを語ってくれた。 2002年に岡山県で生まれた三宅選手は、2006年からスケートを始め、2020-21シーズンの全日本ジュニア選手権で3位に入るなど、年々順位を上げてきた。2020年のNHK杯で9位に入賞したのがグランプリデビューだが、この大会は新型コロナウイルスのため日本の選手のみが出場した大会であった。 昨年の全日本選手権で表彰台に上がったのは今年2月に行われた五輪に出場したスケーターたち(羽生結弦、宇野昌磨と鍵山優馬各選手)だった。日本連盟はその次の三名を四大陸選手権に派遣することを決定し、6位入賞の三宅選手は、今シーズン好調な三浦佳生、友野一希各選手とともに四大陸選手権に出場することができた。 2022年四大陸選手権では、三宅選手はショート、フリー、合計得点で自己ベストを更新する力強い滑りを見せ、総合4位。銀メダルと銅メダルは日本のチームメイトが獲得し、金メダルは韓国のチャ・ジュンファン選手が獲得した。「四大陸選手権で4位になれたことはとても自信につながりました」と三宅選手は語ってくれた。「また、四大陸選手権に出場出来たことでやっとスタートラインに立てたような気がしました。」 © Sena Miyake | Instagram 7月には、6つのグランプリ大会のうち、最初の大会であるスケート・アメリカに出場することが決まった。さらに、五輪で銀メダリストの鍵山優馬選手が怪我のためフランス大会を欠場したことに伴い、アンジェへの出場も決まった。2022-23シーズンは新しいオリンピックサイクルの始まりなので、多くのスケーターは次の五輪を見据えて目標やゴールを 設定している。それは三宅選手も同様で、グランプリ大会の前に「今シーズンは4年後に向けての土台作りのシーズンにしたいと思っています。そのためグランプリシリーズに2戦出場させていただけるのは自分自身にとってとてもいい経験になると思うので、成長できる試合にしていきたいです」と語ってくれた。 スケートアメリカ2022では、17歳のイリア・マリニンがフリーで四回転アクセルを成功させ、観客の喝采の中、シニアグランプリのデビュー戦を金メダルで飾った。チャ・ジュンファン、三浦佳生、ダニエル・グラスルら強豪選手とも対戦した三宅選手は、思うような演技ができなかった。ショートプログラムでは、トリプルアクセルで転倒してしまい、合計点から2点減点された。6位で迎えたフリーでは、転倒やジャンプパスの減点などのミスがあり、総合9位まで順位を落とした。 2週間後のフランス大会のショートプログラムでは、トリプルアクセルをシングルで跳んでしまったため無効となり、10位にとどまった。最終的には体調不良のためフリーを棄権することになり、「グランプリシリーズ2戦とも自分自身にとってはとても残念な結果にはなりました」と三宅選手。それでも、「とても成長できる機会を与えてもらえたと思っています。」そして、これらの大会を今後のバネにすることも考えているようだ:「この経験を活かして全日本ではベストを尽くしたいと思います。」 アメリカ、フランスともにショートプログラムで滑った『Unchained Melody』は、1990年の映画『ゴースト』で有名になった曲で、三宅選手が昨年から滑っているプログラムだ。「今シーズンは今年の2月に作っていただいたプログラム『愛の夢』を滑ろうと思っていたのですが、新ルールに変更になったこともあり、手直しをして頂いたプログラムがなかなかしっくりきていませんでした。そこで試しに昨年使用していたプログラム『Unchained Melody』を滑ってみたところもう一度使いたいと思い、昨年のプログラムに戻すことになりました。」 『Unchained Melody』は、柔らかく始まり、情熱的なフィニッシュへと盛り上がっていく曲。三宅選手の音楽的、感情的なスケーターとしての長所がすべて発揮できる曲だ。

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