Figure Skating

Shoma Uno, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva own slim leads after NHK Trophy short programs

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Olympic and world silver medalist Shoma Uno holds a slim lead following the short program at the NHK Trophy on Friday night.

The 20-year-old, who is looking to lock up a spot in the Grand Prix Final, posted a total score of 92.49 points. Russia’s Sergei Voronov is in second place with 91.37, with his compatriot Dmitri Aliev in third on 81.16.

Uno fell on the front end of his planned quadruple toe loop/triple toe loop combination jump to “Stairway to Heaven,” but so refined are his skills that he was still able to take first place despite the miscue.

Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva leads after the women’s short program due to her big jumps and sassy performance.

Tuktamysheva, who won Skate Canada two weeks ago, earned a total score of 76.17 and holds a narrow advantage over four-time Japan champion Satoko Miyahara who has 76.08. Mai Mihara is in third place with 70.38.

Uno, who won at Skate Canada, began with a fine quad flip before falling on the quad toe loop and not completing the combination. He came back to land a beautiful triple axel and received high marks for his program components.

“My performance was not that great. There were some major mistakes,” stated Uno. “All of my jumps tonight were with my upper body. I will try to do better in the free skate.”

Voronov, the defending champion in the NHK Trophy, landed a quad toe loop/triple toe loop combo, a triple lutz and a triple axel, but could not match Uno in program components.

“I’m pretty satisfied. It’s difficult to skate last,” commented Voronov. “But I have skated after Shoma and Yuzuru (Hanyu) before, so based on those experiences I was able to skate well.”

Tuktamysheva, the 2015 world champion, was rewarded for her fine effort to “Assassin’s Tango” with a standing ovation from the audience. She opened with a big triple axel, then landed a triple toe loop/triple toe loop combination, and went on to hit a triple lutz.

The 21-year-old has not qualified for the world championships since her triumph long ago, but is enjoying a resurgence largely due to her triple axel.

“I’m happy to skate well today because I was more nervous than at Skate Canada,” Tuktamysheva stated. “I could not sleep well, so I hope I will have more energy for the free skate. I hope to recover better than I did at Skate Canada.”

The St. Petersburg native was asked about her return to prominence.

“I think with the new rules I can compete better this season,” Tuktamysheva commented. “There is no secret to my triple axel. It is thanks to my coach (Alexei Mishin).”

Miyahara was sublime in her performance to “Song for the Little Sparrow.” She began with a lovely triple lutz/triple toe loop combo and went on to land a double axel and triple loop.

The Kyoto native, who was fourth at the Pyeongchang Olympics, received level fours on all three spins. Her final layback spin earned a top score of five from eight of the nine judges.

“I was quite nervous but I did my jumps better than I thought,” Miyahara said. “I was able to achieve my objectives. But I did not get the desired level on my step sequence (she received a level three). Tomorrow I hope to do better.”

Mihara under-rotated the back end of her opening triple lutz/triple toe loop combo to “Romance on the High Seas,” but went on to hit a nice double axel and triple loop. She earned level fours for all of her jumps and step sequence in an elegant outing.

“I under-rotated by triple lutz on the combination, so tomorrow I want to land my jumps cleanly,” Mihara remarked. “I am receiving a lot of encouragement from my coaches, friends and family, which gives my confidence.”

Fifteen-year-old Lim Eun-soo of South Korea is fourth on 69.78, while Rika Kihira is fifth at 69.59.

Kihira, making her senior Grand Prix debut, fell on her opening triple axel to “Clair de Lune” but recovered to keep herself in contention for the podium with a strong triple flip/triple toe loop combo and a triple lutz. She got level fours on two of her spins, while getting a level three on the other and her step sequence.

“I was focused on the triple axel, and could imagine it in my mind, but it was a little mislanded,” Kihira stated. “I hope to land my jumps tomorrow.”

Russia’s Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert lead the pairs after the short program with 73.48. China’s Peng Cheng and Jin Yang are second (70.66), while Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro stand in third (67.70).

The men’s and women’s free skates are set for Saturday when the ice dance competition will also begin.