Figure Skating

Kihira struggles in Japan short program; Zagitova on top in Russia as Medvedeva toils

Grand Prix Final winner Rika Kihira only fifth in Osaka, with Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva first and 14th respectively after Russian Championships SP.

It's deja-vu on ice for teen skate sensation Rika Kihira.

The 16-year-old fell on her first jump - a triple Axel attempt - at the 2019 Japan Figure Skating Championships in Osaka to leave her in fifth place after the short program.

Sound familiar? Well, yes...

Kihira was fifth after the short program in November's NHK Trophy before a superb free skate gave her victory in her first senior Grand Prix competition.

In fact, she has only landed the triple Axel once in a short program this season, in setting a world record at the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver.

Rika Kihira falls during the short program at the Japan Figure Skating Championships

The Japanese youngster went on to win in Canada despite, you've guessed it, falling on a triple Axel in her free skate.

As we have seen this season, she is more than capable of bridging the eight-point gap between her and the lead.

But Kihira admitted before competion, "My skate boots are just barely hanging in there. It bothers me a little bit, and I cannot execute an accurate jump sometimes."

In Vancouver, she landed triple Axel-double Toeloop, triple Lutz-triple Toeloop, and triple Lutz-double Toeloop-double Loop combinations.

If she can repeat that level of technical excellence, she can retain her unbeaten record this year.

Miyahara magic

Kihira finished fifth with 68.75, 8.01 points behind leader Satoko Miyahara on 76.76.

Satoko Miyahara skates to first place in the short program at the Japan Figure Skating Championships

The 20-year-old received a standing ovation as flowers rained upon the ice after a scintillating short program.

Miyahara, who shares a coach with Kihira, skated flawlessly through her routine which contained triple Lutz-triple toe and double Axel-triple loop combinations.

Kaori Sakamoto is just over a point behind in what is turning out to be a tight contest

Japan Figure Skating Championships top five (after short program):

1. Satoko Miyahara - 76.76

2. Kaori Sakamoto - 75.65

3. Mai Mihara - 72.88

4. Wakaba Higuchi - 72.63

5. Rika Kihira - 68.75

Zagitova flying, Medvedeva falling

Olympic champion Alina Zagitova and PyeongChang silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva had contrasting fortunes in Saransk at the Russian national championships.

Zagitova is in control after a world-class short program which leaves her more than five points clear of the field on 80.62.

Triple Lutz-triple loop, double Axel, triple flip, combinations were the highlights as Zagitova gave the perfect response after beating beaten by Kihira in Vancouver earlier this month.

Zagitova finished second to Rika Kihira at the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver, Canada

Her training partner, 14-year-old Alexandra Trusova, was second with a triple Lutz-triple loop combination the highlight of her routine.

Trusova became the first female skater, junior or senior, to land two quad jumps in a free skate in winning the world junior title in March, so there will be plenty of attention on her on Saturday.

Alena Kostornaia made it a 1-2-3 for Eteri Tutberidze's Sambo 70 club in Moscow.

She scored 74.40, the same as Stanislava Konstantinova, but took third thanks to a higher Program Component Score.

Russian Figure Skating Championships top five (after short program):

1. Alina Zagitova - 80.62

2. Alexandra Trusova - 74.96

3. Alena Kostornaia - 74.40

4. Stanislava Konstantinova - 74.40

5. Anna Shcherbakova - 74.09

Medvedeva misery

"There's no quick fix", Brian Orser told Olympic Channel after Evgenia Medvedeva failed to make the Grand Prix Final for the first time in her senior career.

The Canadian coach's pleas for patience echo once more after another disappointing skate from the double world champion.

Medvedeva unveiled a brand new short program in Saransk, but fell attempting a double Axel.

She finished with 62.24 points leaving her down in 14th place.

But the 18-year-old was far from downbeat afterwards, telling her fans via Instagram stories that "today I have found a new belief in myself".

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