HIROSHIMA, Japan: Japanese schoolgirl Rika Kihira marked her Grand Prix figure skating debut with a stunning victory at the NHK Trophy on Saturday (Nov 10).
Olympic silver medallist Shoma Uno beat defending champion Sergei Voronov to win the men’s competition in Hiroshima at the fourth of the six-event grand prix series and make it a Japanese double.
Sixteen-year-old Kihira shocked the favourites as she produced a dazzling women’s free skate that earned her 154.72 points from the judges for a winning total of 224.31.
"I still can’t believe it," said the Osaka-based Kihira, who was fifth after Friday’s short programme.
"I’ve literally never been so happy in my life. I want to hold onto this memory forever."
Kihira opened with a breathtaking triple axel, triple toe-loop combination as fellow Japanese Satoko Miyahara took silver with a total of 219.47 points and former world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia bronze on 219.02.
"I couldn’t land a triple axel yesterday," added Kihira, who was showered with roses from the home crowd after becoming the first Japanese woman to lift the NHK Trophy since Miyahara in 2015.
"I went into practice this morning determined to get it right."
Uno scored 183.96 points for a total of 276.45 to win the men’s event, despite a spill attempting to land a quadruple toe-loop.
Russian Voronov earned 162.91 points for a total of 254.28, while Italy’s Matteo Rizzo took third in the absence of Olympic champion and three-time winner Yuzuru Hanyu.
"The home support really helped," said the pint-sized Uno, whose victory means Japanese skaters have won eight of the last 10 men’s NHK Trophies.
"Hopefully the Japanese fans could feel how much I wanted to win, even though I wasn’t perfect tonight," added the 20-year-old world silver medallist after clinching his spot at next month’s Grand Prix Final in Vancouver.
"I feel I can still improve the quality of my free skate."
Russians Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert completed back-to-back victories after winning in Helsinki last week as they won the pairs competition.
Their season’s best 140.66 points in the free skate gave them a total of 214.14 as China’s Peng Cheng and Jin Yang took silver (207.24) and Americans Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim bronze (190.49).