Kihira and Medvedeva impress in practice at Autumn Classic International

Rika Kihira and Evgenia Medvedeva were the star names on the ice in Oakville with the Japanese saving her quad Salchow for another day

The new figure skating season is underway at the Autumn Classic International in Oakville, Ontario.

We learned what jumps Rika Kihira will be performing in her short program this year, and that double world champion Evgenia Medvedeva still has a bit of an issue with her double Axel.

But on the whole, this was a more than satisfactory first outing for both skaters who have their sights on more honours in 2019-20.

No quads, but plenty of triples

Kihira and Olympic silver medallist Medvedeva headlined the last of the three practice groups inside the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex.

Medvedeva landed her triple flip-triple toe loop combination at the start of her short program practice, unlike at the recent Russian test skates.

But she stepped out on her double Axel having landed two cleanly before her runthrough before landing the final jump of her short program, a triple Lutz.

After completing her practice a couple of minutes before the end of the session, she took a bow as she left the ice.

Evgenia Medvedeva and coach Brian Orser walk through the mixed zone after Wednesday practice at the Autumn Classic International
Evgenia Medvedeva and coach Brian Orser walk through the mixed zone after Wednesday practice at the Autumn Classic InternationalEvgenia Medvedeva and coach Brian Orser walk through the mixed zone after Wednesday practice at the Autumn Classic International

Kihira practised her short program which meant no quad Salchow attempt this time.

She landed two superb triple Axels - the jump which let her down frequently last season - and two triple flip-triple toe loop combinations although she has replaced her triple Lutz with a triple loop.

Her short program now consists of a triple Axel, a triple flip-triple toe loop combo and a triple loop.

Afterwards, she spoke about how she wants to add quads this season to raise her average scores.

When asked whether she would try a quad Salchow on Friday, Kihira said: "I'm not sure yet because the timing of a triple Salchow is still off and I couldn't get to a quad. So if I could land a triple Salchow well, I will try it during the morning practise for the free style."

She also spoke about the triple axel, saying "I have tried it many times and feel it's becoming part of me thanks to all the training. So while I believe I am getting physically stronger than last year, the success rate is getting higher because I practised it earnestly for the last six months throughout the off season."

Chen missing

Former US champion Karen Chen was missing from the final group.

The Olympian is due to make her 2019-20 debut in Oakville after missing most of last season with a stress fracture.

First in the final group was Eunsoo Lim who impressed with an array of jumps as she tested out her free skate.

The Korean, 10th in the World Championships in March, landed a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination before her runthrough which included five triples.

The women begin their 2019-20 campaigns in Thursday's short program with double Olympic men's singles champion Yuzuru Hanyu taking to the ice in practice ahead of his seasonal debut.

Out of the first two groups of skaters, Mexico's Andrea Montesinos Cantu took the eye with her jumping.

She went in the second group and, despite falling on a triple toe loop, looks to be on course for a career-best performance in Oakville.

Also representing Mexico this week is Donovan Carrillo in the men's singles.

Carrillo competed at the World Championships in March, and hopes to follow the example of double world champion Javier Fernandez in excelling in figure skating despite hailing from a country not known for its winter sports.

Meet Donovan Carrillo - The Mexican figure skater inspired by Javi Fernandez

Meet Donovan Carrillo - The Mexican figure skater inspired by Javi Fernandez

Group Two also gave us our first airing of Game of Thrones this season courtesy of Hong Kong's Hiu Ching Kwong.

It looks set to be a popular musical selection in 2019-20 with world junior champion Alexandra Trusova choosing it for her free skate in her first senior campaign.

The other skaters in Group 2 were Maya Gorodnitsky of Israel, Kazakhstan's Anastassiya Khvan and Niki Wories of the Netherlands.

There were just four skaters in the first practice group with France's Mae Berenice Maite electing to skip the 35-minute session.

Kailani Craine, Canadians Michelle Long and Veronik Mallet and Britain's Nina Povey did take to the ice with five-time Australian champion Craine, who was 17th at PyeongChang 2018, landing more than her fair share of triple jumps.

The first group of skaters practising in the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, Ontario for the Autumn Classic International
The first group of skaters practising in the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, Ontario for the Autumn Classic InternationalThe first group of skaters practising in the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, Ontario for the Autumn Classic International

What to expect from the top women at the Autumn Classic

This looks set to be the season of the quad jump with plenty of women looking to join world silver medallist Elizabet Tursynbaeva as the only female skater to land a quad in senior competition.

Medvedeva will be seeking to build on her bronze medal behind fellow Russian Alina Zagitova at the World Championships in Saitama.

The 19-year-old found life tough in her first season training in Toronto with Hanyu's coach Brian Orser, but ended the season strongly by earning selection for the Russian team before performing well in Japan.

Double world champion and Olympic silver medallist Medvedeva spoke to Olympic Channel two weeks ago in Moscow where she was named an as ambassador for Team Russia at Tokyo 2020.

She has been working to add quad jumps to her routines and said, "I'm pretty sure that this upcoming season is going to be much better than the last one."

Exclusive: Medvedeva on new season, quads, and Tokyo 2020

Exclusive: Medvedeva on new season, quads, and Tokyo 2020

Medvedeva's music for this year is 'Exogenesis' for the short program and 'Memoirs of a Geisha' for her free skate.

At the recent Russian test skates, there were no quad jumps and she fell on her opening triple flip-triple toe loop combination in the short program.

Kihira made a spectacular start to her senior career last season, winning her two Grand Prix engagements - the NHK Trophy and the Internationaux de France.

She then took victory in the Grand Prix Final, beating Olympic champion Zagitova and setting a short program world record in the process.

After defeat at the Japanese nationals, Kihira returned to form to win the Four Continents title which - not for the first time - saw her fall on her opening triple Axel in the short program before landing the jump in the free skate.

The 17-year-old has spoken of adding quads to her repertoire and showed off a quad Salchow in training back in May.

Will she unveil it in Oakville this week?

Kihira will skate to 'Breakfast in Baghdad' in the short program this year with O Virtus Sapientae the first piece of music in her free skate medley entitled 'International Angel of Peace'.

Last month, she performed her free skate without the quad Salchow which is scheduled to open the routine.

Medvedeva and Kihira are expected to battle it out for top spot with former US national champion Karen Chen and Korea's Eunsoo Lim hoping to make the podium.

Chen skated at PyeongChang 2018, finishing 11th, but missed most of last season with a stress fracture.

She makes her seasonal debut in Oakville and will combine competing with starting her studies at Cornell University.

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Lim was 10th on her debut at the World Championships in March although she made the headlines in Saitama for a clash with training partner Mariah Bell.

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