Sixteen-year-old Rika Kihira claimed gold in the women’s event at the figure skating Grand Prix Final on Dec. 8, becoming the first Japanese skater since Mao Asada in 2005 to win the competition in her debut season.
Kihira, who took the lead after the Dec. 6 short program, topped the six-woman field at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, with a total score of 233.12 points. Pyeongchang Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia finished with silver at 226.53, while Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva took bronze with 215.32.
Performing her free skate to A Beautiful Storm by pianist Jennifer Thomas, Kihira missed her first triple axel but skated clean the rest of the way, including nailing her triple lutz-toe loop.
“I made a mistake early but got to go out there and finish. I am really happy to perform that way on this stage,” Kihira said.
On Dec. 6, Kihira posted the highest women’s short program score in the world since the judging system was revised ahead of the season. She had 4.58 points on Zagitova going into the free program.
One of only a handful of women to perform a triple axel in competition, Kihira won the NHK Trophy in her Grand Prix debut Nov. 9-11. She followed up that triumph with another win at the Internationaux de France, held Nov. 23-25. (Kyodo, AFP-Jiji)