Tomoki Hiwatashi seals shock ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships victory
They say the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory... and that was certainly the case for Tomoki Hiwatashi in Zagreb.
The American came from behind to win his first ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships, thanks to a superb free skate program earning him a final score of 230.32 points.
Roman Savosin of Russia finished second with 229.28 points while Italy's Daniel Grassl claimed third on 224.67 points.
At the start of the second day of competition, the leader board told a very different tale.
Hiwatashi's compatriot Camden Pulkinen was sitting in pole position after a closely-fought short program, in which just five points separated the top 10 skaters.
But on this night at the Dom Sportova arena, skating to Fate of the Gods by Steven Reineke, the 19-year-old delivered a performance worthy of deification.
Hiwatashi took to the rink for the last performance of the night and executed his free skate program with aplomb to seal a shock world title landing a total of seven triple jumps.
He opened with a huge quad toe loop/triple toe loop combination, followed by a triple axel/double toe loop combo.
The victory took the young skater in particular by surprise, who almost spat his water out while on camera as the final score was announced!
"When I saw the free program score of 148 points and second place in the free and since I was second in the short program too, it all added up as two and I thought I was second," Hiwatashi was quoted by the ISU website. "But when I saw 230 points in total I could not believe it, because I did not think I could win. I am very excited to go back home with my gold medal."
Long road back to the podium
Hiwatashi's victory will taste all the sweeter, given his recent struggles in the sport.
After winning bronze at the 2016 World Junior Championships, two seasons of poor form poured ice-cold water on the hype surrounding his initial impact.
But things were looking brighter this season, with a two second-place finishes finishes hinting that the New Jersey native may have rediscovered his magic.
But a victory of this magnitude now elevates Hiwatashi's status from potential talent, to star of the future.