Miyahara triumphs in short program at Four Continents

Kyodo, AP

Satoko Miyahara scored a personal-high 72.48 points in the short program on Thursday in the opening day of the Four Continents Championships.

The 17-year-old Miyahara, runner-up the last two years and also at December’s Grand Prix Final, skated lightly at Taipei Arena to “Firedance” from “Riverdance” and nailed both a triple lutz-triple toe-loop combination and a triple flip to take a comfortable lead.

“I think I’ve achieved a target in the short skate by scoring 70 points in an international competition,” Miyahara said. “I’ve been practicing the whole program in one go for the whole season and it’s finally starting to sink in. I focused not to drop levels with my steps, and execute them in bold strokes.”

Kanako Murakami, the champion here two years ago, also recorded a personal-best 68.51 with a lively and faultless outing that was good for second place. She landed her triple flip and triple toe-loop combination and punched the air with satisfaction at the end of her routine.

“I was relaxed and immersed in the music. I was a bit worried about my axel but am glad I came through without a mistake,” Murakami said.

She joined the field after Mao Asada skipped the event to focus on training ahead of the world championships in Boston starting in late March, and admitted she wasn’t expecting another competition this season.

“I already had my mind on next season so it was tough to bring myself up again but I’ve managed it well,” Murakami said. “I’d like to skate like this again in two days time.”

Rika Hongo, who finished third at last year’s Four Continents, couldn’t quite execute her opening triple flip-triple toe-loop combination but landed her triple lutz and scored 64.27, to finish behind American Mirai Nagasu, who was third on 66.06.

“I thought I didn’t make a mistake right after the finish, but I was lacking speed and there was point deduction from under-rotating, too, so that was frustrating,” Hongo said.

South Korea’s Park So-youn rounded out the top five (62.49).

Gracie Gold of the United States fell on her opening triple lutz and a triple flip to finish ninth with 57.26 points.

The Four Continents are sanctioned by the International Skating Union and feature skaters from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

Maia and Alex Shibutani of the United States led after the ice dance short program with 72.86 points. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada were second with 72.42 followed by Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States with 69.36.

The men’s short program is on Friday. Defending champion Denis Ten of Kazakstan withdrew due to a knee injury. Three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada is competing along with Skate America champion Max Aaron.