Home Figure Skating News Miura and Kihara make history in Torino

Miura and Kihara make history in Torino

by Paula Slater
Iana Saveleva
2022-23 Grand Prix Final Pairs Free Skate

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan perform their Free Skate at the 2022-23 Grand Prix Final in Torino, Italy.

2022-23 Grand Prix Final: Pairs’ Free Skate

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara made history in Torino at the 2022-23 Grand Prix Final when they took the gold—the first medal of any color ever won by a Japanese pair team. USA’s Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier maintained second to win the silver in their debut as a team at this event. Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii of Italy also made history with their bronze-medal win by becoming the first pair team from Italy to medal at a Grand Prix Final.

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara (JPN)

Skating to “Atlas: Two” and “Shared Tenderness,” Miura and Kihara executed a very good level-three triple twist, but then she doubled the first jump in the side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toes. Kihara put a hand down on the triple Salchows, while Miura put a hand down on the throw triple Lutz, but the throw triple loop was good. All three lifts were graded a level four with many high grades of execution (GOE), and the World silver medalists scored 136.50 points for first place in the free skate. With a total score of 214.58, they maintained first place overall.

The team was thrilled with their gold medal, but disappointed about the mistakes they made.

“I made mistakes in the jumps, and awaiting the score, I was feeling bad for my partner,” said Riku. “So, until the scores showed, we were feeling bad.”

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake in the Salchow,” added Kihara. “I also thought it would be my fault and I felt bad for my partner as we waited for the score. Today’s performance was not our best, but we are really happy to win the first Grand Prix Final as a Japanese team. We were saved by the power of the audience, thank you! Overall, we think it is a great experience for us heading into the World Championships in March in Japan.”

Riku explained that the lyrics of the music was about “sacrificing yourself for love.” “It’s kind of fun to discover this new creative presentation for us,” she said.

“I think she really likes this music because this song really represents us!” chimes in Kihara.

The skaters also revealed their favorite Italian food: pizza for him and tiramisu for her.

Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier (USA)

Knierim and Frazier, who were second going into the free skate, placed second in the free skate with 135.63. The reigning World Champions gave a good performance to “Sign of The Times” and “Healed Broken Wings” and earned the highest technical element score of the skaters. Fraizer turned out the front end of the triple toe-double toes and put a hand down on the triple Salchows, but the throw triple loop was huge, garnering many GOEs. The throw triple Lutz was also solid, and all lifts and spin were graded a level four. However , while they had the highest program component scores, the total score of 213.28 wasn’t enough to push the Americans to the top.

“These errors on the jumps just happen,” said Frazier. “We are a little disappointed on that, but overall, we are proud of our fight this week. We have grown very well from the Skate America. We had a very late start of the season and were improving on things. I feel a little personally disappointed for myself with the jumps. I was all over the place and normally I can execute better, but am proud overall.”

“We are very proud, we fought hard, we pushed hard, we had a lot of stamina at the end,” added Knierim. “It was a big improvement from (the Grand Prix in) Sheffield, so we are very pleased and happy with the outcome.”

“Every moment on the ice is special,” she added. “Those moments are very limited in life as a skater in your career, so it’s hard to put the training thoughts aside. Those are the moments that are genuine. The only medal we care about is the one in our hearts. We just skate for the love of it and what comes, comes.”

Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii (ITA)

Conti and Macii opened their program to music from Cinema Paradiso with a level-four triple twist, but then Conti singled the second jump in the triple toe-double Axel-double Axel sequence. Macci fell on the triple Salchows, while Conti stepped out of the throw triple loop. Nevertheless, the 2022 MK John Wilson silver medalists earned a level four for two lifts and the throw triple Salchow was solid. They picked up a new personal best of 119.72 points, and with a total score of 187.02, rose to third overall.

“I don’t believe it!” said Conti. “I really didn’t believe what just happened. We didn’t skate the best of our (potential), but we got the historical medal. I still don’t realize what happened right now, that we are in the press conference with the medal, but it’s something really wonderful!”

“We are really happy about the result,” added Macii. “We are a little bit disappointed how we performed today, we made a small and a big mistake. We wanted a clean performance like yesterday, but we achieved a big result, so we are without words.”

The team felt that the start of the season was unexpected as the medaled at both individual Grand Prix events.

“This medal is historical for Italy, the first in this discipline,” noted Conti. “So, we’ll keep the good momentum for the rest of the season with the jumps and lifts and we want to improve the little things to be even better.”

This is the first season the young team has incorporated the triple twist.

“It’s our first year about a lot of things,” said Macii. “Let’s say we’re still somehow outsiders who are getting almost too many results. But we’re extremely happy about this result that we didn’t expect at all. We knew the first two pairs were unreachable. We knew the Canadians were technically really strong and that they have a very high season best, so we knew that basically we had to play it in the first group, from the fourth to the sixth, the gap was there.”

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps (CAN)

Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps placed fifth (114.94) in the free skate and slipped to fourth overall (184.28). Stellato-Dudek hasn’t been feeling well this week and it showed. She stepped out the landing of the triple twist and continued to struggle with the landings of the two side-by-side jumping passes. However, she managed a good throw triple loop, and the 2022 Grand Prix de France champions picked up a level four on all three lifts in their routine to “Cleopatra.”

“Of course we are really disappointed, but we couldn’t train well leading up to this event,” said Stellato-Dudek. “I am still not one hundred percent. We still put ourselves out there. I wasn’t even sure how I would do that long program today, but I am happy that no dangerous accidents happened. We made it through.”

“We went through this together,” said Deschamps. “We rely on each other. It was a big learning experience, but we can build on this.”

The team will compete next at Canadian Nationals and will find out then if they qualify for a spot at Four Continents and/or the World Championships.

Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini (ITA)

Ghilardi and Ambrosini struggled a bit with the side-by-side jumping passes and she double-footed the throw triple loop in their routine to “Il Barbiere di Siviglia.” However, the throw triple Lutz was solid and they also earned a level four on all three lifts to finish fourth in the free skate with 116.85 points. With a total score of 180.39, the 2022 Grand Prix Espoo champions maintained fifth place overall.

“We were a bit nervous,” admitted Ghilardi. “Maybe it was the pressure of the first Grand Prix Final and the home crowd, but it’s okay. Sometimes you learn, sometimes you just enjoy the moment. We want to be in our best shape at the rest of the season and just do our best at every competition!”

Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe (USA)

Chan and Howe skated an endearing routine to “Unchained Melody” which was highlighted by side-by-side double Salchow-double Axel-double Axels, but Chan underrotated the triple toes and fell on both the throw jumps. The 2022 Four Continents silver medalists picked up a level four on the triple twist and the group 5 Axel lift, but the mistakes were costly and they finished sixth in the free skate and overall (109.06/162.91).

“We are just very grateful to be here,” said Howe. “We’ve never been to Italy, it’s our first time. And we’re at a Grand Prix Final, that is amazing! The free skate was okay. Of course we had some troubles on the throws. At least I got the lifts done today!”

“We are very happy with the schedule,” said Chan. “We will be able to explore the city Saturday and Sunday and we are really looking forward to that!”

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