Figure Skating

Japanese skaters make final preparations for NHK Trophy

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Japan’s skaters all made it through practice unscathed on Thursday ahead of the start of the NHK Trophy on Friday.

Unlike last year’s near disaster, which saw Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu take a hard fall and sprain the lateral ligament in his right ankle on a quadruple lutz in Osaka, there was no such drama on this day.

Rika Kihira skated to her short program music “Clair de Lune” in the morning session and looked sharp throughout the practice, landing several triple axels. She will take the ice fourth in the short program on Friday in her senior Grand Prix debut.

Four-time national champion Satoko Miyahara worked on her free skate to “Invierno Porteno” in the first training of the day, while Mai Mihara also used the time to go through her free skate to “The Mission.” Both Miyahara and Mihara looked smooth in their run throughs.

Miyahara will be looking to clinch a spot in the Grand Prix Final here by finishing first or second after winning Skate Ameria, while Mihara and Kihira will be bidding to make the podium to put themselves in the running for a spot in the GP Final.

The Japanese women all looked solid in the afternoon session, executing jump after jump with precision. Kihira’s triple axel was excellent, while Mihara’s triple lutz/triple toe loop combination looked good. Miyahara jumps were fine as well, as she fell just once.

Olympic and world silver medalist Shoma Uno practiced to his short program of “Stairway to Heaven” in the early session. He took a few falls while training, but that is not unusual for him.

Uno ran through his free skate to “Moonlight Sonata” in the afternoon session, but did it without any jumps. He did successfully executive several quads during the practice before his music came on.

The 20-year-old Uno won Skate Canada and can secure his place in the GP Final by taking first or second.

Uno drew the 11th spot for Friday’s short program, while Sota Yamamoto (third) and Hiroaki Sato (second) will skate in the first group of six skaters.

This NHK Trophy is the lone GP assignment for both Yamamoto and Sato.

The event will get underway with the pairs competition on Friday afternoon, Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara will represent Japan in the discipline.