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Japan’s Sota Yamamoto was not about to let the pressure get to him, despite knowing that one mistake could sink his dream of the gold medal in men’s figure skating at the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games.
Yamamoto went into the free skate in first place, with a comfortable lead on those chasing him when he stepped onto the ice at the Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre. He was the last of 16 skaters.
The 16-year-old Japanese watched Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs excel in his four-minute skate to move within striking distance of top spot. One miscue could cost Yamamoto the title. He responded with a smooth performance to clinch the gold medal, with a score of 215.52.
“I was watching the scores, I was checking out the other people's points the whole time,’’ Yamamoto said. “I had a lot of pressure and going last made me feel even more nervous.
“One of my aims was to get gold, and I did, but I still wasn't very happy with my performance. I could have done better.”
Yamamoto then revealed that a text from those closest to him had helped propel him to the win. “My parents texted me and they said they were watching back home in Japan, where it is very late at night,” he said. “My mum sent me the message after the short program. My parents are proud of me.
“A lot of people made mistakes in the short program. I tried to simply focus on the long program because that is what everybody else was doing.”
Vasiljevs had the best overall scores in the free skate to jump to second place from third and mine silver with a score of 214.43.
The bronze medal went to Russia’s Dmitri Aliev thanks to a performance that was ranked second best on the day – following on from Saturday’s short program – and allowed him to move up to third place from fourth.
Canada’s Roman Sadovsky was second when the day’s competition started, but a fall on a triple axel cost him and he ended up out of the podium positions in fourth spot.
A clearly disappointed Sadovsky skated slowly off the ice at the end of his routine, his head bowed low. “I could have kicked myself for missing,’’ he said. “There are high-risk, high-reward elements and I missed. If I landed that triple axel, I would have made the podium. You live and learn.”
Written by YIS / IOC Alan Adams with Emily Bayci, IOC Young Reporter
Alan Adams is a reporter for the Lillehammer Youth Information Service ‘YIS’. Based in Toronto, Canada, he has covered sports since the mid-1980s including covering five Winter Olympic Games.