Figure Skating

Rika Kihira leads after short program at Autumn Classic International

Kyodo

Rika Kihira led the field after the women’s short program on Thursday at the Autumn Classic International, an ISU Challenger Series event held ahead of the Grand Prix season.

Kihira, opening her second season on the senior international circuit, nailed a triple axel at the start of her routine, bagging 78.18 points at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex.

Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva, the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic silver medalist, was second with 75.14 points.

“I had difficulty landing my triple axel during my short program last season. I’m really happy that I was able to do it this time,” Kihira said.

The 17-year-old won every international tournament she competed in last season, including the Grand Prix Final, until finishing fourth at March’s world championships in Saitama.

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu will open his season in the men’s event. He hit the ice for official training on Thursday and nailed a quadruple lutz, which he did not attempt last season.

Hanyu said he will not change his program for the short and free programs after closing the previous season with a silver at the worlds, where he finished 22.45 points behind Nathan Chen of the United States.

“I had regrets about not being able to deliver a perfect performance,” Hanyu said. “I can’t finish this program with a defeat.”

The men’s short program and the women’s free program were scheduled for Friday.

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