Figure Skating

Rika Kihira punches ticket for Grand Prix Final with second GP victory of season

Kyodo, AP

Rika Kihira scored her second Grand Prix victory of the season Saturday at the Internationaux de France, leaving Mai Mihara in second place while also punching her ticket to the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver next month.

World champion Nathan Chen booked his spot on the men’s side with a pulsating free skate that left him far ahead of the field.

The 16-year-old Kihira, who began the day in second place behind Mihara, earned 138.28 points from her free skate for a total of 205.92.

Kihira, who also came from behind to win at the NHK Trophy in Hiroshima in her Grand Prix debut earlier this month, opened her program to “Beautiful Storm” by Jennifer Thomas with a wobbly triple axel and under-rotated the jump.

She bounced back to nail a double axel-triple toeloop combination as well as four more clean triples and two level-four spins.

“I am so happy that I have won,” said Kihira, who joins fellow Japanese skaters Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto in next month’s Grand Prix Final. “I think I have given my best performance considering the jet lag and lack of power in my legs.

“I will try hard in practice so I can be in perfect condition at the Grand Prix Final and aim to rewrite my personal best score.”

Mihara’s second-place finish, with an overall score of 202.81, wasn’t enough to get her into the final. American skater Bradie Tennell’s good free skate bumped her up to third, with an overall score of 197.78.

Mihara, who had a slender lead over Kihira after the short program, landed five clean triple jumps but doubled a salchow and under-rotated a toeloop.

Her runner-up performance was a personal best after four straight fourth-place finishes in Grand Prix events.

“I am disappointed because my performances were not satisfactory in either the short program or the free skate but it’s nice to get out of the pattern of finishing fourth,” said Mihara. “I think I can improve.”

Also missing out on the final was a very out of sorts Evgenia Medvedeva. The former two-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist from Russia had an error-strewn free skate and finished fourth overall with 192.81.

Russian Stanislava Konstantinova was fifth while Marin Honda placed sixth.

Chen, oozing confidence despite an untidy short program on Friday, outclassed the field in the men’s free skate, scoring 184.64 for an event-winning total of 271.58. The American won by 15 points.

Chen also won the series’ first event, Skate America, in October.

The 19-year-old Chen’s free skate featured three tough quad jumps.

Countryman Jason Brown was second overall, placing third in the free skate with a more pedestrian routine that lacked quads. Brown also avoided quads in winning the short program on Friday. His overall score was 256.33.

Alexander Samarin of Russia was third with a score of 247.09.

Neither Brown nor Samarin finished among the series’ top six.

In pairs, Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France won the free skate for overall victory, securing their ticket for the final. Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea of the United States were second, ahead of the third-placed Russian pair of Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii.

In ice dance, the French pair of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron was untouchable, winning the free dance after winning the rhythm dance on Friday.

The Grand Prix Finals for the top six skaters or pairs in each discipline from the Grand Prix series of six events will take place in Vancouver on Dec. 6-8.