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Japan advances in team competition

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Japan is in fifth place with 32 points heading into the final day of the figure skating team event following the pairs free skate on Sunday afternoon at Gangneung Ice Arena.

Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara placed fifth in the pairs free skate, the first element in the final round, weakening Japan’s chance for a medal.

Canada is in first place (45), ahead of the Olympic Athletes from Russia (39) and the United States (36).

Italy stands in fourth with 35 points.

Japan’s lack of strength in pairs and ice dance is likely to cost it a chance at a medal.

Japan advanced to the final stage with 26 points and a fourth-place finish following the women’s short program and short dance.

Satoko Miyahara took fourth in the women’s short program to add seven points to Japan’s total, while Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed came in fifth in the short dance, which contributed five points.

China (18), Germany (18), Israel (13), Korea (13) and France (13) did not make it into the final round in which only five teams compete.

The men’s free skate and free dance are scheduled for Monday.

Keiji Tanaka is slated to go in the free skate for Japan, but the Japan Skating Federation could still make a change and have Shoma Uno do the free skate if they wish.

Miyahara skated to “Memoirs of a Geisha” and received a disappointing score of 68.95. The four-time national champion under-rotated both ends of her opening triple lutz/triple toe loop combination, which proved costly.

“I felt great. I thought I would be more nervous, but I had a lot of fun,” Miyahara stated. “It was a little bit lower score for me, but I think the skating was good for me at my first Olympics. I want to cheer for my team and do the best I can in the individual event.

“Maybe the under-rotations cost me points,” Miyahara added. “I think I had some, so I have to fix that.”

Olympic Athlete from Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva, the two-time defending world champion, competed to “Nocturne” and earned a season’s-best score of 81.06 to win.

Medvedeva was in fine form after missing several weeks with a broken metatarsal in her right foot.

She landed a triple flip/triple toe loop combo, a triple loop and a double axel consecutively and her program components were exquisite.

“At this point, I am happy with my results, but the performance was a bit tough, probably because it was my first time on the Olympic ice,” Medvedeva commented.

Medvedeva was tough in her self-evaluation of her skate.

“I know what I can do better.” Medvedeva said. “On a scale of five, I would give myself a four, maybe a bit less.”

Italy’s Carolina Kostner was second with 75.10, with Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond third on 71.38.

“I skated very well,” Kostner stated. “I was fighting for the team and I felt safe and surrounded by great people. Some things were tough. I was fighting for some elements, but I am happy.”

Korea’s Choi Da-bin was fifth at 65.73.

Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the pairs free skate with 148.51.

Italy’s Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek (138.44) were second.

Suzaki and Kihara got 97.67 for fifth place.

Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir topped the short dance with 80.51, ahead of Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani (75.46).

Reed and Muramoto earned a score of 62.15 in fifth place.

Japan was in third with 13 points after the men’s and pairs short program on Friday, behind Canada (17) and the U.S. (14).

Uno won the men’s short program on Friday to give Japan 10 points, while pairs Suzaki and Kihara added three points via their eighth-place showing in the short program.