Golden Skate

Rika Kihira takes lead to defend her crown at Japanese Nationals

Rika Kihira
Rika Kihira

Rika Kihira performs her Short Program at the 2020-21 Japanese National Figure Skating Championships.

Defending champion Rika Kihira is currently in first place after the Ladies’ Short Program took place at the 2020-21 Japanese National Figure Skating Championships in Nagano on Friday. 2020 NHK Trophy champion Kaori Sakamoto is in second, followed by 2019 Four Continents bronze medalist Mai Mihara.

Kihira opened her routine to “The Fire Within” with a solid triple Axel which garnered many high grades of execution (GOE), but then put a foot down on a the landing of a triple flip-triple toe. The two-time Four Continents champion otherwise landed a solid triple Lutz and was awarded a level 4 on two spins and her footwork to earn 79.34 points.

The 18-year-old was relieved that she had landed her jumps. “I was awarded a decent score, so I’m satisfied. Hopefully, I will be able to make my steps more of a high point in the short program.”

Sakamoto landed a double Axel and triple Lutz, but doubled the back end of a triple flip-toe combination. All spins were graded a level 4 in her routine to “Concerto en ré mineur, BWV 974: II. Adagio” and “Bach a la Jazz,” and the 2018 Four Continents Champion scored 71.86 points.

The 20-year-old admitted to being more nervous and than usual, even during practice. “I got higher points than I expected,” she said. “Now it really depends on how well I will perform in free. So I will forget about my mistakes and do my best the day after tomorrow.”

Mihara landed a triple Lutz-triple toe, double Axel, and triple flip in her routine to “It’s Magic.” The 21-year-old was also awarded a level 4 for all spins and footwork for 69.55 points.

2018 World Junior bronze medalist Mako Yamashita produced a triple loop, double axel and triple Lutz-triple toe for fourth place (67.28) and is followed by Rin Nitaya (67.16), Satoko Miyahara (66.48), and Rino Matsuike (65.57).

What are your thoughts on the Ladies’ Short Program? Discuss here.