Kihira Rika leads at Challenge Cup despite falling during short program

Challenge Cup defending champion falls on triple toe loop at end of skate but sits top of pile in The Hague.

Fresh off the back of retaining her Four Continents title, Kihira Rika leads at the Challenge Cup competition in the Netherlands after the ladies' short program.

Wearing the same outfit as she did at the Four Continents, a blue-and-gold dress, the 17-year-old scored 74.27 points for her skate despite a mistake towards the end of her program.

The Japanese skater, who is the defending champion in the Hague, fell on her final jump element – a triple flip, triple toe loop combination.

She finished ahead of compatriot Yuhana Yokoi in second (73.29) and USA's Sierra Venetta in third (62.15).

Japan's Kihira Rika in ladies' short program action at the 2020 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)
Japan's Kihira Rika in ladies' short program action at the 2020 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)Japan's Kihira Rika in ladies' short program action at the 2020 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

Kihira opened with a well-executed triple Axel, which looked to be the cleanest of her three jump elements, scoring 2.4 on the -5/+5 Grade of Execution scale.

Her triple Lutz did not score more than the base value after it was awarded a 0 Grade of Execution, before her fall on the combination.

The skater received Level 4s for all her spins as well as her step sequence, receiving 41.47 for her technical element score and 33.80 for her program components with a one-point deduction for the fall.

With only three weeks to the World Championships in Montreal, Kihira will look to remain in winning form as she gears up to face Russia's "3A" threat of Alexandra Trusova, Alena Kostornaia, and Anna Shcherbakova.

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