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Japan 3rd in figure skating team event at Pyeongchang; Uno nears personal points best

Japan's Shoma Uno performs during the short program of the figure skating team event at the Gangneung Ice Arena, on Feb. 9, 2018. (Mainichi)

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Japan's Shoma Uno came in first in the men's short program of the figure skating team event at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Feb. 9, while Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara placed eighth in the pair short skate program, leaving Japan in third place overall.

Uno was the last skater among the 10 performers in the men's short program, and scored 103.25 points -- just a little over 1 point short of his personal best. He was the only skater to score over 100 in the event. His performance boosted the Japanese team's morale after Yuzuru Hanyu, a gold medalist at the Sochi Olympics, elected to miss the team event.

As Hanyu decided to skip the team event following injuries to his right ankle, Uno took the job of the team's lead-off performer. Amid an intense atmosphere where other prominent skaters failed to perform at their best, Uno's only notable mistake was his hand touching the ice during his first quadruple flip. Uno's expressive performance, set to "Winter" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, conveyed his interpretation of the music well.

While medal expectations for the 20-year-old skater in the singles event are high, Uno kept his cool at his first Olympics, saying that the feeling of competing at the games "hasn't really set in." He did not lose his concentration at the team event, telling others that he wanted to "focus on putting my best" into the performance.

Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara perform during the pair short skate program at the Gangneung Ice Arena, on Feb. 9, 2018. (Mainichi)

Uno said he had "practiced the hardest this season" since late January. His motto is to "end my performance with a smile and no regrets." After his Feb. 9 performance, Uno smiled a little -- a rare sight this season.

"I smiled because I was feeling woozy," Uno told reporters after the event. "I thought I would feel a special kind of nervousness, but I was able to be myself until the end."

In the figure skating team event, teams are given points according to skaters' rankings in each event -- the men's short program, the women's short program, the pair short program and the short ice dance. The top five teams will advance to the free program competition scheduled for Feb. 12.

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