• Kyodo


Rika Kihira returns to the spotlight on Saturday at the Internationaux de France, with the final spots for the Grand Prix Final on the line.

Kihira produced a sensational performance to win the NHK Trophy in her Grand Prix debut earlier this month and the 16-year-old can secure a spot in the Dec. 6-8 final in Vancouver, British Columbia, by finishing among the top four this weekend.

One of only a handful of women to perform a triple axel in competition, Kihira opened her free skate at the NHK Trophy by executing the jump in combination with a triple toe loop before landing it a second time on its own en route to a come-from-behind victory in Hiroshima.

Her one hiccup with the triple axel in Hiroshima gave her a mountain to climb after finishing fifth in her short program.

“I messed up the triple axel in the short program at the NHK Trophy so I definitely want to nail it this time,” Kihira said Friday of her fall earlier this month.

“I am not going to have (qualifying for) the (Grand Prix) Final on my mind. I just want to get through one event without making any mistakes.”

She will be up against two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva and Stanislava Konstantinova of Russia and compatriots Mai Mihara and Marin Honda, while Keiji Tanaka is competing in the men’s event.

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