Shoma Uno trusts local blades for Beijing Games

Changing the blades he attaches to his figure skating boots has made all the difference for Shoma Uno, who is aiming to better his Olympic silver medal from Pyeongchang at the upcoming Beijing Winter Games.

Since starting to use the Japanese-made ‘Kozuka Blades’ in recent years, the 24-year-old has seen a significant improvement in his performance, giving him the boost of confidence he needed to include five quadruple jumps in its free course. skating this season.

Like most sports equipment, figure skates are designed to cater for a range of skill levels, with a skater attempting triple and quadruple jumps needing something very different compared to a recreational skater. Elite level skaters know that an investment in quality boots and blades pays off big time under bright lights.

“Your blade edges are the only point of contact you have with the ice, so choosing the right shoes is important,” 2010 Olympic figure skater Takahiko Kozuka said in a recent interview.

Steelmaker Yamaichi Special Steel Co., based in Nagoya, and Kozuka, a native of Nagoya, have teamed up to make the new set of blades that Uno trusts to support him as he stretches to reach new heights. new heights. They took six years to develop and went on sale in the spring of 2018.

A figure skating season is made up of two halves, with the main events of the first half starting in October and running through nationals in late December, and the second half continuing from January to March, when the world championships are held.

When actively competing, Kozuka struggled to find blades that worked in perfect harmony with his boots.

“It takes about two weeks to break in a new pair, so the ideal time to change gear is after Nationals,” Kozuka said.

But in reality, due to the stressed quad jumps put on its blades, they lasted less than a month.

There are four main types of blades used in ice sports: hockey, figure skating, and short and long track speed skating.

Figure skating blades are longer and have a wider contact surface than hockey blades, which can help with balance. The toe pick in the front allows skaters to perform jumps and spins.

Before retiring from competitive figure skating in 2016, Kozuka started the collaboration project with Yamaichi Special Steel.

Unlike conventional skates, where the base parts are assembled and welded together, Kozuka blades are milled from a solid 11.5 kilogram block of steel to create a one-piece blade that weighs 271 grams.

They’re three times stronger and lighter, and their six-month warranty demonstrates the company’s confidence in their relative longevity.

Uno, who once wore down a set of blades in two weeks, said using the Kozuka blades allowed for more graceful and athletic movements, and allowed him to focus on his skating instead of worrying about the injuries and accidents.

“These blades don’t bend or move around, so I feel safe,” Uno said. “I can focus on fixing my technical issues, which should be my priority.”

Kozuka says these blades can flex like airplane wings and not break.

Along with four-time national champion Uno, 2014 Four Continents champion Takahito Mura and 2018 Junior Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Koshiro Shimada are among the Kozuka Blades users.

Kozuka’s ever-evolving journey to better skate manufacturing won’t stop there, as he says blades are just part of the skate, and he now designs boots.

“I wanted to do the full set, not just the blades,” he said. “I think we are at sample #30. Business has been hit by the pandemic, but we have raised 5 million yen through crowdfunding. People expect a lot from our products. It’s motivating.

“These boots could be a secret weapon for better jumping. They are going to be really good. Fine Japanese craftsmanship has been poured into the creation of these boots.

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