Home Figure Skating News Miura and Kihara reign at Four Continents

Miura and Kihara reign at Four Continents

by Paula Slater
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan made history by becoming the first Japanese pair team to win a medal of any color in a Four Continents Championship.

2023 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships
Pairs’ Free Skate

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan reigned at the 2023 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships after taking the Pairs’ title. By doing so, they made history by becoming the first Japanese pair team to win a medal at this event. USA’s Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe repeated as silver medalists, while Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada settled for bronze.

It was apparent that altitude in Colorado Springs, Colo., affected many of the teams. One by one, they sunk or collapsed to the ice to catch their breaths after their performances.

Miura and Kihara were not clean, but got the job done in their routine to “Atlas” and “Shared Tenderness.” The team, who trains in Canada under Bruno Marcotte, showed a huge triple twist and throw triple loop, as well as two good level-four lifts. However, Kihara stepped out of the last jump in the triple toe-double-toe-double Axel sequence, while Miura stepped of the triple Salchows. The throw triple flip wasn’t clean, but they received the full base value. They also scored many positive grades of executions (GOE) for their clean elements, in particular, the level-three triple twist and Group 5 Axel lift. The 2022 World silver medalists scored 137.05 for first place in the free skate and overall (208.24).

“We were quite nervous coming into this competition because of the high altitude but, despite the small misses we made, we are so happy that we were able to win the gold,” said Miura. “It was a kind of challenge to see how far we can go in these three years. We had some small mistakes, but we tried our best and we are happy with the outcome.”

Kihara was thrilled they had made it to this point.

“All the practices paid off and the younger generations—especially the pair figure skaters in Japan—then they see us here winning the gold, maybe they would think they should try doing pairs as well. Then we might be able to see more Japanese flags at these competitions in pairs. We think we should try harder to inspire those younger generations.”

Miura added that they actually felt more pressure going into the short program than the free skate.

“Our coach said it is not good to be too nervous,” she said. “We had a good warm up before the free skating and it worked.”

“It was really tough skating at this altitude, but the cheers of the audience kept our legs moving and we are really grateful for your support,” Kihara added.

Chan and Howe stole the show with their performance to “Unchained Melody.” The only major error was a hand down on a throw triple Salchow, but it didn’t interfere with the flow of the program. For the jump passes, the 2022 Four Continents silver medalists landed a double Salchow-double Axel-double Axel sequence and triple Salchows. The throw triple loop was solid and they received a level four on two lifts, placing second in the free skate with a new personal best (by over 11 points) of 134.15. The team also earned the highest total element score of the group, and placed second overall with 201.11 points (another personal best).

“It was a really special moment for us to be able to go out there and connect the way we did,” said Chan. “We were both very happy to be able to put together ourselves and have the confidence in each other and in ourselves today.”

“It was an amazing performance and it definitely felt like on of the best we have had this season,” said Howe. “It is amazing to come to Colorado Springs! A lot of the talk was about the altitude, so to come here and give this performance our season’s best was amazing. It feels amazing we put in a lot of work, so to come here and medal is an honor. We look forward to taking our performance here on to worlds and continuing our season.”

Howe pointed out that it was due their coach, Alexei Letov, that they were able to manage their training between nationals and this event.

“He really knows what he’s doing,” said Howe. “We all work together. We have a really good village back home. It was a quick turnover from nationals, but it wasn’t a bad thing for us. We were able to keep the ball rolling and stay in a really good training environment. We’ve been really fortunate to stay injury-free as we’ve continued through this season. We started off with some injuries, but we got better and we were able to start training more. It really is reflected (in our skating) now that we’re at the end of the season.”

Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps had a good start, opening with a triple twist, triple toe-double toes, and level-four lift. However, she touched down on the throw triple flip and he fell on the triple Salchows. The throw triple loop was huge, receiving many GOEs, as did the Group 5 Axel lift. Despite the mistakes, the 2022 Grand Prix de France Champions earned a new personal best of 125.45 for their “Cleopatra” routine, finishing third in the free skate and overall (193.84).

“Our performance felt pretty good,” said Stellato-Dudek. “It was a good stepping stone for us and a good climb up for worlds. It was our goal to be on this podium.”

This was the first time the team had used the side-by-side triple Salchows in their program.

“That was our plan, regardless of the altitude,” said Stellato-Dudek. Max usually doesn’t fall on it, so I was really surprised to see him down. But I was really proud of him, because he got back up and, three crossovers later, had me over his head in a lift, again, with the altitude.”

“Just finishing that program with all of those lifts was hard,” said Deschamps.

“When I saw him falling on the Salchow, I turned around and was like, ‘Come on, we have a lift coming up!” said Stellato-Dudek. “And then I was like, ‘Well done!” during the lift. We cheer on one another during the skate!”

Teammates Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud finished fourth in the free skate and overall with two new personal bests (121.17/186.33). Their routine to music from Pirates Of The Caribbean featured a level-three triple twist, triple toe-double toe-double Axel sequence, and throw triple Salchow. While Michaud doubled the Salchows, the program was otherwise pretty solid.

It should be noted that this was only their second international event as a team. The first was at the challenger event in Zagreb earlier this season.

“I’m really happy with how it went today, kind of similar to yesterday,” said Pereira. “We’re just out here to gain more experience and confidence in our program, putting everything out there, trying to show everyone what we have been working on. There’s obviously still some little things we can work on to improve our performance.”

“We would be lying if we said no,” Michaud responded, when asked if they wanted to win medals. “For us, we are just here to focus on ourselves because this is our first Four Continents, doing this together. So we just wanted to feel more about that. Eventually we will get to the point where that is (medaling).

The team will compete next at worlds, along with fellow teammates Stellato-Dudek/Deschamps and Brooke McIntosh/Benjamin Mimar.

USA’s Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez finished fifth overall (169.09).

“We put everything that we had out there,” said Plazas. “I think it was a good fight. It wasn’t perfect, but we learned from every experience that we have, so I’m excited to take this into the next season. It’s so special to hear the crowd from home, and we’re excited to be able to travel around the world.”

“We put everything we wanted to put in for this season and we take everything from every competition to put into the next,” added Fernandez. “We’re just happy to be here and perform the best that we can. It was nice to hear a home crowd here in Colorado Springs. We’re planning on improving a lot on the jumps, adding a second triple jump into our program, and keeping the consistency on the throws. When we talked, we wanted to do this, to go all the way to the top and compete at the world stage and be at the top of the world stage.”

Teammates Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea were sixth (168.69).

“It was not the easiest performance,” admitted O’Shea. “I think we did a lot of things really well today and what we did accomplish, we had very high levels of performance and nice GOEs. As a team, we are very proud of that. The elements we have been able to learn and master in a very short time we do with a very high quality. I think with a little more time together, and a little more experience together, we will be able to show off that same high quality on all our elements. Then the sky’s the limit.”

O’Shea said that one of their biggest takeaways was that they did much better in their long program than their short.

“In most of our programs this season, we have achieved all levels fours,” he pointed out. “In our short program, we missed a lot of levels on the elements, leaving a lot of points on the table.”

His partner, 18-year-old Kam, enjoyed her debut at this event.

“It is definitely different than any other competition,” she said. “This has been my first season doing international competitions overall, and they have all been exciting and different, but this one has been special.”

They will also be heading to worlds with teammates Chan/Howe and Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier.

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