Figure Skating

Shiraiwa 2nd after short program at Helsinki Grand Prix

KYODO, AP, Staff Report

Yuna Shiraiwa is in second place at the Helsinki Grand Prix following the short program on Friday night.

Shiraiwa, 16, earned a score of 63.77 points at Helsinki Arena. Reigning Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia leads Shiraiwa by 5.13, while Belgian Loena Hendrickx is in third with 63.17.

Shiraiwa landed a triple lutz/triple toe combination jump, a triple flip and a double axel to “Nightmare” and “All Aboard,” but received only level two for a pair of her spins and step sequence.

“I was relieved to be able to cleanly land the two consecutive triple jumps I had been having problems with,” Shiraiwa commented. “But if I had been able to calm down and spin more, I think I would have scored a little higher. That’s frustrating.”

Kaori Sakamoto (57.26), who earned a second straight silver at Skate America last month, fell on two jumps to “From My First Moment” and is in seventh place, while Rika Hongo (51.11) is last in 11th.

“I had done really well in the last six minutes of practice so I thought it would be fine, but compared to Skate America, there was a part where I was unable to concentrate,” Sakamoto said.

Zagitova took the lead despite a failure in her opening jump combination.

The 16-year-old planned a triple lutz/triple loop, but turned the second jump into a single. She recovered her flair and assurance for the rest of the program to “The Phantom of the Opera,” including a double axel that she entered from a Charlotte spiral and a hands-up triple flip late in the program.

“(After missing the combination) I thought I have to do all the other elements clean,” Zagitova stated. “The combination was the first element and I still had all the other elements. I knew that the season after the Olympic Games will be hard, especially emotionally. I had my two weeks’ vacation as usual, then the training camp and the preparation for the season started.”

Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise led the pairs after the short program. Skating to Joe Cocker’s gravelly singing, the Italian pair showed notable speed in completing a triple salchow, triple twist lift and throw triple loop cleanly, but got out of synchronization on some spins.

Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert were 0.6 points behind. The Russians outpointed their opponents on program components for their dramatic interpretation of Prokofiev’s “Alexander Nevsky,” but Enbert’s fall on a triple toe loop put them behind technically.

Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin, also from Russia, were in third after a short program marked by a soaring triple twist.

Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara are last in the eight-team field.

Russian ice dancers Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin lead after the rhythm dance.

Italy’s Charlene Guignard were half a point behind, seeming unfazed by a music foul-up at the start that played Debussy’s languid “Claire de Lune” instead of the intended intense tango.

Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter of the United States placed third.

The women’s, pairs and ice dance will conclude on Saturday in the Finnish capital, which is hosting a GP event for the first time.

Two-time Olympic figure champion Yuzuru Hanyu was scheduled to make his GP season debut in the short program on Saturday.