Kagiyama and Sakamoto dominate at NHK Trophy; Takahashi completes ice dance debut

Leader of the ladies’ event after the short program, 20-year-old Kaori Sakamoto won her first career ISU Grand Prix series event in Japan.

Ahead by almost six points heading into the free skate, Sakamoto opened her second routine with a double axel. Skating to music from The Matrix, the 2018 Four Continents champion landed a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, a triple Lutz, and a triple Salchow. Sakamoto did not receive any negative grades of execution and, in the second half of the performance, also landed a double axel-triple toe loop-double toe loop combination, a triple flip-double toe loop combination, and a triple loop. She earned a total competition score of 229.51 points.

2018 World Championship silver medalist Wakaba Higuchi landed her free skate opening triple axel, although it was deemed a quarter under-rotated. Second after the short program, the 19-year-old landed a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, double a Salchow attempt, and completed a triple loop. She also landed a double axel-triple toe loop combination, a triple flip-double toe loop-double loop combination, and doubled her final Lutz attempt. Fourth in the free skate standings, Higuchi earned a total competition score of 200.98 points too maintain second position overall.

16-year-old Rino Matsuike successfully medaled in her first international senior level competition this weekend. She landed a triple flip and then a double axel to begin her free skate program. Skating to Perhaps Love by Jones Denver, the young Japanese figure skater held on to a triple loop and landed another double axel. She also completed a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination, a triple flip-triple toe loop-double toe loop combination, and a triple Salchow-triple toe loop combination. Matsuike placed second for the free skate and third overall with a total competition score of 198.97 points.

Seventh after the short program, 21-year-old Mai Mihara began her second day of the competition with a triple Lutz-triple toe lop combination, double axel, and then two triples – a flip and a Salchow. The 2017 Four Continents champion made a good comeback, placing third in the free skate standings and rising to fourth overall at the 2020 NHK Trophy – a repeat of her highest feat at this event back in 2018. She finished the competition with a total result of 193.73 points.

The competition’s lone non-Japanese figure skater – Young You from South Korea, was last after a bad outing in the short program. The 16-year-old landed a triple axel to open her free skate routine. A few under-rotations here and there but no falls and a much better free skate performance rose the 2020 Youth Olympic gold medalist to seventh place overall with a total score of 181.73 points.

Two-time defending Japanese National ice dance champions Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto won their first career ISU Grand Prix series medal – and it is gold.

Skating their free dance routine to a French version of Andy William’s (Where Do I Begin?) Love Story, the 28-year-old Komatsubara and 29-year-old Koleto received a total competition score of 179.05 points to run away with the win. Having skated with Komatsubara since 2016, Koleto became a Japanese citizen less than two weeks ago – making the couple eligible to represent Japan at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Silver medalists at last season’s Japanese Nationals, Rikako Fukase and Canadian-born Eichu Cho began their second season skating together with a silver medal at the NHK Trophy. The two 23-year-olds received a total competition score of 157.89 points to rise from third place after the rhythm dance to second overall.

Kana Muramoto – a bronze medalist at the 2018 Four Continents championship with them-partner Chris Reed – and Daisuke Takahashi – a bronze medalist at the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2010 World champion in men’s singles skating – made their highly anticipated competitive ice dance debut together. Second after the rhythm dance, the couple presented their free skate to music from the ballet La Bayadère. A fall on one of their elements dropped them to third place, as a mandatory one-point deduction for a fall would have played a pivotal role in deciding a silver or bronze medal – Muramoto and Takahashi received a total competition score of 157.52 points and placed third overall, losing to second place by only 0.37 points.

2020 Youth Olympic gold medalist and 2020 World Junior Championship silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama made a successful ISU Grand Prix series debut.

Leader after the short program, Kagiyama landed a quad Salchow and a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination to begin his free skate performance. The 16-year-old also landed a triple flip, a quad toe loop, a triple axel-Euler-triple Salchow combination, triple Lutz-single loop combination, and finally a triple axel. Skating to music from Avatar, he earned a total competition score of 275.87 points.

Second after the short program, 22-year-old Kazuki Tomono doubled his opening toe loop attempt but then recovered with a quad Salchow-double toe loop combination. He remained upright on another quad Salchow in the next jumping sequence. In the second half of his performance, Tomono landed a triple Lutz, a single axel-Euler-triple Salchow combination, a triple axel, and a double flip-double toe loop combination. He earned a total competition score of 226.62 points and held on to second place in the final standings.

Making his international senior level debut, Lucas Tsuyoshi Honda popped his opening axel attempt but held on to his next triple axel. Third after the short program, the 18-year-old doubled a loop but successfully completed a triple flip and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. Skating to music from Spectre, the Japanese Junior National champion landed a double axel-Euler-triple Salchow combination and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. Honda earned a total competition score of 217.56 points and won the bronze medal.

Fourth after the short program and one of the favorites at this competition, 26-year-old Keiji Tanaka opened his free skate performance with a triple Salchow. Skating to Hans Zimmer’s music from Sherlock Holmes, the two-time bronze medalist at ISU Grand Prix series events (at the 2016 NHK Trophy and 2019 Skate Canada) landed a quad Salchow-double toe loop combination and a double axel-triple toe loop combination. In the second half of the routine, Tanaka landed a triple flip, a triple Lutz, and popped two consecutive axel attempts. He received a total competition score of 215.52 points and remained fourth.

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