Figure Skating

Honda golden in senior circuit debut

Rising star holds off U.S. challenger Nagasu in triumphant start

Kyodo, AP

Marin Honda made a triumphant senior circuit debut by winning the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic on Saturday.

The 16-year-old won the women’s free skate with 131.52, giving her a 198.42 total after she won Friday’s short program. Americans Mirai Nagasu (183.54) and Karen Chen (182.32) finished second and third, respectively, at Salt Lake City Sports Complex.

“I went onto the ice thinking I will skate with all my might but I can’t remember what happened in the latter half,” Honda said. “I think I was able to keep mistakes to a minimum and do what I should in this competition.”

The teenager said she wants to find what she needs to work on before the season begins in earnest, but for now expressed relief at being “able to win against myself.”

Kaori Sakamoto was fifth after the short program and moved up one slot to fourth with a final total of 169.12.

Nagasu scored 119.73 points in the free skate to edge Chen for second place.

“I really felt the crowd’s support, and overall, I’m really happy with how I skated,” Nagasu said. “I’m glad I made a few mistakes, because I have a lot to work on going into my next event, the Japan Open or the Challenger Series if I get another one.”

Chen, who came into Saturday’s free skate 0.72 points behind Honda, fell once and had an additional stumble en route to a score of 116.14 that dropped her into third place.

“She just has this really beautiful, elegant flow on the ice,” Chen said of Honda. “She’s really, really amazing. Everything just seems so effortless and so easy. I know it’s not easy to go out there, because I’m trying to do the same thing myself.”

In ice dancing, Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed were third with 151.45, behind winners Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and runners-up Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker of the United States.

Saturday’s score in the free dance was the best for Hubbell and Donohue in international competition. With the Olympics looming in February in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the pair viewed the win in Salt Lake City as a nice stepping stone.

“Everything’s going to have to be more than a new personal best,” Donohue said.

Hubbell and Donohue finished sixth in the world in 2016, and have won the bronze medal at the U.S. Championships four times. Coming into Saturday’s free dance, they were focused on strong technique and not allowing their emotions to get the best of them on the ice.

“I think that naturally, we’re very emotional competitors, and we really go on feeling, and it can be a riskier way to skate,” said Hubbell, alluding to the pair’s fall at the 2016 world championships that knocked them out of medal contention. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in our sport in the artistic side and the storytelling side, and most of the points are going to come from the technical component, and that’s where we’ve kind of hurt ourselves in the past: the technical mistakes. Our goal this season is to be really technically consistent.”

Julia Biechler and Damian Dodge of the United States finished eighth.

Meanwhile, in Bergamo, Italy, Shoma Uno won the Lombardia Trophy in a personal best of 319.84 points after topping the men’s free skate.

Uno, who led after the short program, placed ahead of Jason Brown of the U.S. (259.88) and Australia’s Brendan Kerry (233.05).

Hiroaki Sato finished 12th with 184.78.