Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro fell just short of the podium in the pairs competition at the NHK Trophy on Saturday.
The Canadians sat in podium position following the short program but slipped to fourth as their total score of 189.66 was less than a point short of securing a medal.
It was the fourth competition in seven weeks for Moore-Towers, of St. Catharines, Ont., and Marinaro, of Sarnia, Ont. They skated a clean program to a Pink Floyd medley but they touch downed with a hand on a couple of landings.
“We were pretty solid in the first three competitions but we are a little disappointed in this performance,” said Moore-Towers.
“There are some areas we did improve but now we have some time before nationals [in January] to come back and deliver a special performance.”
Russians Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert won gold in the pairs free skating, securing their second consecutive victory and advancing to the Grand Prix Final, starting Dec. 6.
Zabiiako and Enbert received a season-best 140.66 points in the free skate for a total of 214.14.
Cheng Peng and Yang Jin of China earned the silver medal with 207. 24, and bronze went to Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim of the United States with 190.49.
Teenager Kihira wins on home soil
Japanese figure skater Rika Kihira upstaged the favourites, landing two triple axels to win the NHK Trophy on her
Grand Prix debut. The 16-year-old Kihira, who was fifth after the short program, produced a flawless free skate to earn 154.72 points for a total of 224.31.
16-year-old Japanese phenom Rika Kihira made a strong impression in her Grand Prix debut, taking the NHK Trophy in the ladies free program. 4:22.
Satoko Miyahara, also of Japan, was second with 219.47 points, followed by short program leader Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia with 219.02.
Kihira opened with a triple axel, triple toe loop combination and added six more triple jumps — including another triple axel — to become the first Japanese skater to win the NHK Trophy since Miyahara in 2015.
“I was a little worried about the triple axel after yesterday,” Kihira said. “So I worked on it in this morning’s practice and was able to do it cleanly today.
Winning here is something that will give me confidence and be a wonderful memory.” Figure skaters punch their tickets to the Grand Prix Final. 1:28. Miyahara didn’t make any major mistakes but was unable to surpass her compatriot.
“I didn’t make any misses on my jumps but perhaps I could have skated with more ease,” Miyahara said. “I was a bit nervous and that’s something I’ll have to overcome.”
Tuktamysheva also skated a clean program but had an awkward landing on a triple axel and dropped to third.
Uno wins back-to-back
Shoma Uno of Japan won the men’s gold, following up on his win at Skate Canada.
Uno, who was first after the short program, opened with three straight quadruple jumps and scored 183.96 points in the free skate for a total of 276.45.
Japan’s Shoma Uno glided past the competition with an impressive gold medal performance in the NHK Trophy men’s program. 4:54
Sergei Voronov of Russia was second with 254.28 points, followed by Matteo Rizzo of Italy with 224.71.
Canada’s Kevin Reynolds was 11th with a total of 182.67.
Kevin Reynolds scored a 182.67 in his men’s free program performance at the NHK Trophy. 4:39
“There are some positives I can take from this week,” said Reynolds. “I was able to perform the programs artistically the way I was hoping but the jumps were not where they needed to be.”
Canada’s Soucisse, Firus finish 5th
In the final event of the tournament, the Canadian pairing of Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus scored 169.84 to finish fifth in ice dance.
“We went out there and did our job,” said Firus after the rhythm dance. “It was a good performance but a little disappointed with our placement right now.”
American pair Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker won gold after a strong free dance boosted them to 113.92 points, less than one point ahead of Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson (113.29). Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, also of the U.S. finished third with 109.57 points.
Russia’s Tiffani Zagorzi and Jonathan Guerreiro were first after the rhythm dance but a weak free dance showing pushing them all the way down to fourth at 107.56 points.
Many of the skaters in this weekend’s fourth Grand Prix event are aiming to qualify for the Dec. 6-9 Grand Prix Final in Vancouver.
You can catch more figure skating coverage on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on Road to the Olympic Games, our weekly show spotlighting the best high-performance athletes from Canada and around the world.