Figure Skating

Carolina Kostner takes lead at world championships; Satoko Miyahara sits in third place

Kyodo, AP

Satoko Miyahara overcame an early mistake to sit in third place in after the women’s short program at the World Figure Skating Championships on Wednesday.

Miyahara, who placed fourth at last month’s Pyeongchang Olympics, scored 74.36 points. She trails Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who leads with a career-best 80.27 points, and Russia’s Alina Zagitova (79.51).

Miyahara opened with a triple flip-triple/ toe loop combination, but wobbled slightly on the transition and under rotated the toe loop in an otherwise solid performance.

“I was trying to force it and tightened up,” Miyahara said. “I knew I under rotated it.”

Still, Miyahara finished within 1.80 points of her personal-best short program score.

“I had a strong desire to perform to my best with everything else because I messed up my first jump,” she said.

Wakaba Higuchi, who did not compete at the Winter Games, fell when trying to complete a triple lutz/triple toe loop combination and was eighth with 65.89.

“After that my triple flip and my spins were perhaps the best I’ve ever performed,” the 17-year-old said. “That was the product of my continuing practices after mistakes. I’m pleased because I got a higher score than I thought I would.”

A former world champion coming off a fifth-place finish at the Olympics, the 31-year-old Kostner’s performance demonstrated both technical prowess and maturity in balletic moves that held the crowd.

Kostner was rewarded bonus points for her jumps, pushing her technical score uncharacteristically above her presentation marks for a personal best of 80.27. She skated fittingly to “Ne me quitte pas,” (“I never quit”).

Kostner, who has been working with Russian coach Alexei Mishin since her comeback in 2016 from a suspension for lying to doping officials on behalf of an ex-boyfriend, was playing to an adoring home crowd.

“I feel the affection and the passion from those who share my passion for this sport. It’s an enormous honor and it gives you a huge encouragement,” Kostner said. “The aim today was to remain technically clean and then everything else was up to the decisions of the judges.”

Zagitova was shaky from the start of her elements. Holding the jumps for the end of the program, the 15-year-old bobbled slightly on the triple lutz/triple loop combination for a slight penalty.

The Russian hit the triple flip with both arms up in the air, a trademark move, and a double axel with her arms tight for a score that was well below her world record of 82.92, set at the Olympics at the Gangneung Ice Arena.

Olympic bronze medalist Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada finished fourth on 72.73 points with negative marks on two jumps, putting her hands down on the double axel..

In the pairs competition, Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara finished 24th in the short program and did not qualify for the free skate. Germany’s Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, who earned 82.98 points, hold the lead.

The men’s short program and pairs free skate were to be held on Thursday.