Japanese teenager Kihira wins NHK Trophy on Grand Prix debut
HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) — Japanese figure skater Rika Kihira upstaged the favorites on Saturday, landing two triple axels to win the NHK Trophy on her Grand Prix debut.
The 16-year-old Kihira, who was fifth after the short program, produced a flawless free skate to earn 154.72 points for a total of 224.31.
Satoko Miyahara, also of Japan, was second with 219.47 points, followed by short program leader Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia with 219.02.
Kihira opened with a triple axel, triple toe loop combination and added six more triple jumps — including another triple axel — to become the first Japanese skater to win the NHK Trophy since Miyahara in 2015.
“I was a little worried about the triple axel after yesterday,” Kihira said. “So I worked on it in this morning’s practice and was able to do it cleanly today. Winning here is something that will give me confidence and be a wonderful memory.”
Miyahara didn’t make any major mistakes but was unable to surpass her compatriot.
“I didn’t make any misses on my jumps but perhaps I could have skated with more ease,” Miyahara said. “I was a bit nervous and that’s something I’ll have to overcome.”
Tuktamysheva also skated a clean program but had an awkward landing on a triple axel and dropped to third.
Shoma Uno of Japan won the men’s gold, following up on his win at Skate Canada.
Uno, who was first after the short program, opened with three straight quadruple jumps and scored 183.96 points in the free skate for a total of 276.45.
Sergei Voronov of Russia was second with 254.28 points, followed by Matteo Rizzo of Italy with 224.71.
Russians Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert won gold in the pairs free skating, securing their second consecutive victory and advancing to the Grand Prix Final, starting Dec. 6.
Zabiiako and Enbert received a season-best 140.66 points in the free skate for a total of 214.14.
Cheng Peng and Yang Jin of China earned the silver medal with 207. 24, and bronze went to Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim of the United States with 190.49.