Kihira Wins

In pursuit of a second consecutive Four Continents title, Japan’s Rika Kihira got her campaign off to a good start with a confident lead after the ladies short program in South Korea on Thursday. If Kihira succeeds in her quest, she will make history as the first singles skater to ever do so.

Performing to “Breakfast in Baghdad” Kihira opened the routine with a solid triple Axel, followed by two more jumping passes (triple flip-triple toe combination and a triple Lutz), which were interspersed with Level 4 spins and footwork.

Kihira said she was happy with her jumps even though they were not 100 percent. “I’ll keep working to make them better for the free skating,” said the 17-year-old who earned 81.18 points for the segment.

“I had a better image (of my triple Axel) than I had during the official practice, but I was a little worried because my legs became loose during the performance. So, I was going to concentrate more and do the best jump during the actual performance.

“Today’s jump was not the best one I’ve ever had, so I’d like to correct it in my free program. And I would like to do my best to make no mistakes such as today’s jump.

“I didn’t feel much pressure. I was able to concentrate on my jumps to try harder for the World Championships. I had a lot of time since the beginning of the New Year, so I was able to practice to concentrate on my performance today. 

Kihira said she had not decided on the technical content for her long program “but, for now, the quad Salchow is looking good. I’ll keep practicing it and depending on my condition I’ll determine my final content for the free skating.”

Bradie Tennell of the U.S. finished second, with 75.93 points. Performing to “Mechanisms” and “Chronos” by Kirill Richter, the 22-year-old opened a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, followed immediately by a double Axel, and midway through the program, a triple flip. Tennell earned Level 4 for two spins with the final spin graded a Level 3.

“Overall I am pretty happy. I think just the minor error on the spin was a silly mistake and I’m disappointed in myself for letting that go but overall, I am pleased with myself,” said Tennell. “I have a process that works for me and I want to stick to it that helps me go through each performance and each season.

“I was very relaxed out there, having fun. There were a couple of little things that could have been better but I’m going to the free skate feeling confident.”

South Korea’s Young You, the newly crowned Youth Olympic Games champion, stepped out of the opening jump – a triple Axel – but moved on to execute a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and a triple flip in her “Romeo and Juliet” routine. You finished third in her Four Continents debut with 73.55 points.

“First of all, except for my triple Axel the rest of the jumps were good so I am satisfied with that, but I did not get the full levels for my spins and steps so I’ll think about that more in the free skate,” the 15-year-old said. “My triple Axel was not working well so I was very disappointed in myself. But the free program is left so I will concentrate until the end. When I saw my score, I thought that I didn’t concentrate on my spin or step level.

“After I receive my protocol I will check the scores closely. It was my first time at this competition but I think I did well without any big mistakes. However, the score gave me a lot of disappointment. I will overcome this in the free skating.

Japan’s Kaori Sakhamoto sits in fourth with 73.07 points, ahead of her teammate Wakaba Higuchi (72.95 points). South Korea’s Eunsoo Lim rounded out the top six (68.40 points).