Home Figure Skating News Japan’s Mai Mihara leaps to gold in Espoo

Japan’s Mai Mihara leaps to gold in Espoo

by Paula Slater
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2022 Grand Prix Espoo Women

Japan’s Mai Mihara leaps to Women’s gold at 2022 Grand Prix Espoo in Finland on November 26, 2022.

2022 Grand Prix Espoo – Women

Mai Mihara of Japan leapt to the Women’s gold at the Grand Prix in Espoo, Finland, on Saturday. Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx slipped one spot to second for the silver, while Mana Kawabe of Japan secured the bronze.

Japan’s Mai Mihara leaps to gold in Espoo

Mihara was in second with a new personal best (73.58) going into the long program. Her free skate to “El Amor Brujo” featured three solid jumps, including a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop. She stepped out on an underrotated triple flip and slight underrotated the back end of a double Axel-triple toe and the front end of a triple Lutz-double toe, but her spins and footwork were all graded a level four. The two-time Four Continents Champion scored 130.56 points for this performance, and with a total score of 204.14, moved into first overall.

“Today with my free skating I have a lot of regrets, but I am happy to go to the Grand Prix Final,” said Mihara. “I hope by then I overcome the obstacles and will get my levels up and will become a stronger person.”

“I was less nervous than I was in Sheffield,” the 23-year-old added, “but I was not in my best condition. From now on, I would really want to show my best, especially at the Grand Prix Final.”

Mihara will be accompanied by teammates Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe at the Grand Prix Final.

Hendrickx qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Hendrickx opened her long program to “Poeta” and “Fallen Angel” with a triple Lutz-triple toe, double Axel and triple flip. However, the overnight leader (74.88) popped an Axel and then fell on a solo triple Lutz. The 2022 World silver medalist also underrotated the front end of a triple flip-double toe-double loop, but landed a triple Salchow-double toe. She also received many positive grades of execution for her level four spins and footwork, scoring third place in the free skate (129.03). However, her total score of 203.91 was not enough to keep her in first, and she slipped to second overall.

“For my performance today, I was not satisfied with it,” said Hendrickx. “I didn’t have my day today. I know I can do much better, but we are all human an it happens. I will try to fight at the Grand Prix Final and very excited and will work hard with this opportunity.”

“The aim was so far away before I started the season,” said Hendrickx. “I never thought I’d get the chance to be in the Grand Prix Final and I am proud I achieved this.”

Kawabe nervous, but gets the job done

Kawabe received an edge call on both her triple Lutz jumps and slightly underrotated three triple jumps with some two-footed landings. Despite the mistakes, her triple toe and triple Salchow were clean and the 2021 NHK Trophy silver medalist earned a level four for two spins and footwork in her routine to “Drowning.” She finished second in the free skate 130.38, but maintained third overall with a total score of 197.41 points.

“I was quite nervous,” admitted Kawabe, “but I was able to be myself and show my program today. In my free skating, I found a lot of things to improve. There were some underrotations and I hope to make no mistakes next time. And I want to practice my triple Axel.”

Teammate Rika Kihira of Japan moved up two spots to fourth overall (192.43). Her free skate to music from Titanic was solid and featured six clean triple jumps sans a triple Lutz. All spins were graded a level four, while the steps were a level three. All elements received positive GOEs from the judging panel across the board and her total score was 192.43.

“It’s been a while since I competed, so, since the starting pose I was wondering if I was out of breath,” said the two-time Four Continents champion. “But I was able to skate without problems. I think it was a performance that will give me confidence.”

“My left foot hurt a lot on the toeloop at this morning’s practice, I thought I was at my limit,” Kihara added. “After all, if you don’t practice a lot, you can’t jump. It wasn’t my bones, but where the boots would hit, so it’s something that happens often to everyone. Because of that, I did Axel and Salchow. Also, at practices, whenever I did Axel and Salchow, it had a high success rate. That’s why I decided this morning to aim for perfection and go with this layout. The truth is, I wanted to jump a lot (at this morning’s practice), but I thought it’s not something I can do at the actual competition. So in order to be able to think I can definitely jump, I changed to this layout.”

“I experienced many big competitions up until now,” she summarized. “I was conscious on having confidence and focusing on things step-by-step, and I think I was able to bring out what I practiced the same as I always did, as a good competition. And next time when I improve my layout, I want to have just as much focus.”

Madeline Schizas of Canada maintained fifth place overall (187.84) ahead of USA’s Lindsay Thorngren (183.23) and Anastasiia Gubanova of Georgia (166.57).

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