Figure Skating

Kihira Rika victorious at Challenge Cup to extend winning streak

Japanese skater has now won her last three events ahead of the World Championships.

By ZK Goh ·

Kihira Rika kept up her winning ways by triumphing at the Challenge Cup figure skating event in the Hague, Netherlands after the ladies' free skate on Sunday (23 February).

The defending champion, who led after Saturday's short program, has now won her last three competitions – the Japanese nationals, Four Continents championships, and now the Challenge Cup.

She skated cleanly throughout her routine and received a free skate score of 156.38 for a total of 230.65. While her free skate score was higher than her ISU personal best, results gained at this non-ISU competition do not count for best scores.

Fellow Japanese Yokoi Yuhana (214.56) was second with Canada's Madeline Schizas (175.56) third.

Schizas's result would also appear to put her in pole position to be chosen for the Canadian team for a home World Championships in Montreal next month. The other Canadian in the field, Emily Bausback, finished 11th.

Japan's Kihira Rika in action at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships 2020

The 17-year-old changed up her jump elements slightly from what had been seen earlier this season, but all seven of them were clean.

Kihira opened with the triple Salchow and followed that with a triple Axel, double toe loop combination. She opted for the triple Lutz as her third jump, something she also did at Four Continents instead of her usual triple flip, and then did another triple Axel as a solo jump.

The teenager went for her tried-and-tested triple flip, triple toe loop combination – which she had fallen on in the short progam – to lead off her three back-end elements worth extra in base value.

She threw in a second triple Lutz, in combination with a double toe loop and double loop, before closing with a triple loop.

Kihira was visibly happy at the end of her routine, pumping her hands in the air. She received 85.10 points for her technical elements and 71.28 for her program components.

While there was nothing of note – the quadruple Salchow, which Kihira attempted and fell on at the Grand Prix Final, did not make an appearance in the Hague – the teenager will take confidence from this event into what will be an epic tussle against Russia's "3A" skaters at the Worlds.