2023 World Figure Skating Championships
Pairs’ Short Program
Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara hit the 80-point mark in front of their home crowd at the 2023 World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama. They are currently in first place, followed by USA’s Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier and Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii of Italy.
Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara
Miura and Kihara mesmerized the crowd, showing a lots of connection with each other in their routine to “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to “Sweet Hope Walk.” The 2022 World silver medalists opened with a level-two triple twist, followed by solid side-by-side triple toes. The throw triple Lutz was excellent and received +2.04 grades of execution (GOE), as did the level-four lift. The spin, footwork, and death spiral were also graded a level four, racking up even more GOEs. In the end, the team broke the 80-point mark with a new personal best of 80.72 points.
“Our goal for this season was to get 80 points in the short program, so we are glad to have achieved our goal at the very end of the season,” said Kihara. “We really have been having very good practices after Four Continents, so we want to perform just like our practices and we hope to deliver what we’ve been working on.”
Miura agreed, adding that the good practices helped his confidence.
“I’m glad our hard work paid off,” she said. “The cheering from the audience gave me a lot of energy and seeing a lot of our banners…I’m very happy!”
Miura had a charming moment in the Kiss & Cry when she prematurely reacted to the scores, which had not yet been shown to the audience.
“I was simply just happy and my happiness just exploded,” she said. “I saw the score, but I didn’t know that everyone didn’t see the score yet, so I was jumping the gun but I didn’t know about that.”
Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier
Knierim and Frazier gave everything they had in in their dramatic skate to a remix of “Separate Ways.” Their coach, Todd Sand, suffered a heart attack while at the 2023 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, and is still hospitalized.
Fraizer fell on the side-by-side triple toes, but that was the only mistake in a technically demanding routine. All other elements posted no less than +3 GOEs. While the triple twist and death spiral were graded a level three, all other elements received a level four. The throw triple flip was superb, earning mostly +4 GOEs across the board. The defending champions are in second with 74.64 points.
“I’m very proud of how Alexa and I put out our performance,” said Frazier. “It’s a little disappointing for the jump for me, personally. It’s a mistake, but we did everything else that we were trying to do. We lost some points on some things, but I was happy that we went out there. We attacked and we fought. That is all that matters.”
“We approached it focusing on what we can control and that’s our training every day,” said Knierim, regarding the absence of their coach. “We put our hearts into our skating and it’s no different what we do under normal circumstances. Of course, these times we are much more vulnerable. We have an incredible team of many, many people at home that have been helping us prepare, and we were fortunate enough to bring our choreographer, Shae-Lynn Bourne.
Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii
Conti and Macii showed good flow and speed in their performance to “Oblivion” by Mina. Conti hung on to the landing of a throw triple loop, but the side-by-side triple Salchows and level-four triple twist were perfect. This was reflected in their GOES, as was their level-four lift and steps. Unfortunately, the death spiral was only graded a level one, but the spin received a level four and the 2023 European champions earned a new personal best of 73.24 for third place.
“We are very emotional as we tried to give the maximum,” said Conti. “We know that some elements weren’t excellent, but it was fine.”
“It’s our first World Championships, and I would say that it was the best show of our life and we have the best score,” said Macii. “There’s nothing to complain about. Almost everything was perfect.”
Even though the Italian champs received a personal best, Conti said it’s “important to improve our score step-by-step” as it shows that they are continuing to improve.
“We would rather not receive a huge score and then fall back,” she pointed out. “We rather want to improve our season’s best to feel that we still have room for improvement. That’s our focus.”
Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps
Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada put out a very expressive and precise routine to “Oblivion” by +Tango, which featured an impressive level-four triple twist and side-by-side triple toes. The throw triple loop was also solid and the level-four lift received +2 GOEs. The spin and death spiral were also graded a level four, while the steps received a level three. The 2023 Four Continents bronze medalists scored 72.81 for fourth place—just a tad under their personal best from 2022 Skate America.
“We are pretty pleased with what we showed today!” said Stellato-Dudek. “Nerves were sky-high, but looking at Maxime calmed me down. It wasn’t our best performance of the year, but it was really strong and had some of our best elements that we’ve performed in the short throughout the year.”
“We feel good about our performance,” added Deschamps. “We had to adjust a lot of things this week with the jet lag, but we are really proud of what we delivered today. It’s the end of the season, and all the hard work throughout the season paid off today.”
Stellato-Dudek mentioned that the ice was a “little bit different” than what she is used to.
“I’ve been over-rotating all of my jumps, so I had to make a lot of adjustments on my landings to make sure that I stayed on my feet.”
Neither of the skaters have been to Japan and are excited. They see these championships like “competing with and not against each other.’ The team also confirmed the plan is to keep skating until 2026.
“We are also seeing all our friends here,” said Stellato-Dudek. “A last big gathering before everyone starts working hard for the off-season.”
Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe
USA’s Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe scored a new personal best of 70.23 points with their routine to “Nyah” by CH2. The two-time Four Continents silver medalists showed good speed throughout, and the only mistakes came when Chan two-footed the throw triple loop and underrotated the triple toe. The triple twist was graded a level four with high GOES, as did the death spiral, lift, footwork, and spin.
“We both felt really great out there!” said Chan. “Me personally, I actually felt really good before the performance. I could feel the energy already in my body, ready to give it to everyone.”
“We feel super grateful,” added Howe. “We love this program and we love the long even more, so I am excited to get on to tomorrow and just continue to display and put out the energy that we love to give.”
Both skaters were thrilled to be in the last warm-up group.
“We have really pushed ourselves this season, and to be out there with the last warm up is really a gift for us to experience with those amazing skaters,” said Chan.
Howe agreed: “We are super blessed. We put so much focus on our work, as all these other athletes, so just to be there up with the big guys is a huge honor!”
Howe, who is half Japanese, is enjoying his second trip to Japan, and “absorbing the culture.”
“I always love coming to Japan,” he said. “It is amazing!”
Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud
Canada’s Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud gave a very solid routine to “Where We Come Alive” by Ruelle, picking up a new personal best score of 65.31 points. The 2022 Golden Spin bronze medalists showed a good level-three triple twist, as well as a solid triple toes and throw triple Salchow. The lift, spin, footwork, and death spiral were all graded a level four, and all elements received positive GOEs.
“Our goal from the beginning of our partnership was trying to push to get to Worlds, so it is a really nice bonus that we are here,” said Michaud. “We are just very excited to get our first win together, and hopefully many, and just put some more tools in the tool box for years to come.”
“We are feeling great!” said Pereira. “It’s amazing to be here! I think we have been taking each competition this season as a learning experience. We were really happy that we were able to get here, and get to this point. We just wanted to show what we have been working on and I think we did that today.”
“I told Lia, in our first week of practicing together, that we will make it to Worlds,” he recalled. “She wouldn’t believe me back then, but we built a great partnership. And we of course had making it to Worlds in the back of our minds as an outline, and it’s amazing to have reached it. Our long-time goal is, of course, Milano 2026! “
Pereira went on to add that they were satisfied with their performance and noted that they were getting more comfortable after each competition.
“Obviously there are still a lot of nerves there, so that is another thing, being able to manage that and put a performance out there like this one,” she said.
Their goal for the free skate is adding the second throw triple jump, which has a been a big focus since Four Continents.
Alisa Efimova and Ruben Blommaert
Germany’s Alisa Efimova and Ruben Blommaert finished a close seventh with 65.23 points. The 2022 Grand Prix of Espoo silver medalists were near solid with the exception of a fall on the triple toes by Blommaert. The throw triple loop was very good and received many GOEs, as did the level-four footwork, death spiral and lift.
Efimova noted that when they skate, the audience was a bit sparse, but that they still drew energy from what they heard.
“I was a bit nervous and that makes me a bit…tired is not the right word, but I was not so open today for the audience,” she said. “But that’s something I want to improve tomorrow and I think that will help to run through the whole program.”
Blommaert, who suffered a recent back injury, also admitted to being nervous.
“I’m actually always nervous when it comes to the short program, because I don’t think you can win a competition with (a good) short program,” he pointed out, adding that you can lose a competition with a bad performance. “But despite the mistake, we got a good score because the rest was just good. With the GOE, we could make it up a little bit. Our season’s best was 67 and that time the performance was flawless, so I think our score is quite ok.”
Rounding out the top 10
All teams who placed eighth through tenth picked up new personal best scores in their debut at this event. Hungary’s Maria Pavlova and Alexei Sviatchenko is currently in eighth place (64.43), followed by USA’s Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea (63.40) and Brooke McIntosh and Benjamin Mimar of Canada (63.33).
Two-time World Junior silver medalists Anastasia Golubeva and Hektor Giotopoulos Moore of Australia are currently in 11th place (61.95) after a fall on a throw triple loop.
“I loved to skate, it was easy and there was lot of energy,” said Golubeva. “However, it is a shame that the throw didn’t work out. It usually always works. I tried to get as fast as possible so that nobody notices (the fall).”
“Anything can happen in any competition,” Giotopoulos Moore pointed out. “Now, we’re just going to work harder to make sure we’re skating clean every time.”
The Pairs’ event will conclude tomorrow with the free skate.