At the fourth stage of this season’s International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix series in Japan – the 2021 NHK Trophy, Japanese figure skaters performed well in their home event – taking the lead in both the men’s and women’s disciplines.
Following the withdrawal, due to an injury, by Yuzuru Hanyu – the top remaining Japanese representative in the men’s event, Shoma Uno took advantage of the situation and claimed the lead after the first day of the competition with a new season’s best short program score of 102.58 points. The 23-year-old 2018 Olympic silver medalist began his presentation with a quad flip. He then completed a quad toe loop-double toe loop combination, as well as a triple axel.
Winner of Skate America over Uno and rival Nathan Chen, 2019 World bronze medalist Vincent Zhou too earned a new season’s best short program score as he took second place. Skating to Vincent, performed by Josh Groban, the 21-year-old American began his performance with a quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination. Later, he completed a quad Salchow and a triple axel. A three-time runner-up at the U.S. Nationals, Zhou received a score of 99.51 points for his performance.
Fifth at last week’s Grand Prix of Italy, South Korean figure skater Junhwan Cha received a result in the mid-90s for the second consecutive week and placed third after the short program in Japan. The 20-year-old started his program with a quad Salchow. He later landed a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a triple axel. Cha earned a score of 95.92 points for this performance.
Results after short program:
- Shoma UNO (JPN) – 102.58
- Vincent ZHOU (USA) – 99.51
- Junhwan CHA (KOR) – 95.92
- Makar IGNATOV (RUS) – 90.54
- Sota YAMAMOTO (JPN) – 86.05
- Matteo RIZZO (ITA) – 84.78
- Alexander SAMARIN (RUS) – 84.32
- Kao MIURA (JPN) – 76.62
- Tomoki HIWATASHI (USA) – 72.36
- Nam NGUYEN (CAN) – 64.28
- Camden PULKINEN (USA) – 55.53
The women’s event suffered from quite a few unfortunate withdrawals due to injuries before the competition – including two-time World Junior champion and 2021 World silver medalist Alexandra Trusova, two-time Four Continents champion Rika Kihira, and top eight finisher at last season’s Worlds Olga Mikutina. Sadly, the competition witnessed another injury – during the six-minute warm-up of the short program, Russian figure skater Daria Usacheva fell on a triple flip attempt and had to be carried off by the doctor of the Russian national team. The 15-year-old 2020 World Junior silver medalist was forced to withdraw. According to the Figure Skating Federation of Russia, a ligament tear of one of the internal muscles of the right leg in the growth zone of the femur.
2018 Four Continents champion and fourth at Skate America three weeks ago, Japanese representative Kaori Sakamoto found herself leading at her home Grand Prix event. Skating to music from the Gladiator, Sakamoto began her short program performance with a double axel and then completed a triple Lutz, as well as a triple flip-triple toe loop combination. The 21-year-old, from the city of Kobe, earned a score of 76.56 points for her presentation.
Ninth at Skate Canada two weeks ago, 17-year-old Japanese figure skater Mana Kawabe began her short program performance with a triple axel and went on to place second on the first day of the NHK Trophy. She later completed a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a triple flip. Kawabe received a score of 73.88 points – a career best result.
17-year-old South Korean representative Young You fell on her opening triple axel attempt and is currently third in the competition. Bronze medalist at Skate America last month, You received a slight negative grade of execution on her triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination but successfully completed a triple flip. She earned a score of 68.08 points for her performance.
Two-time United States champion Alysa Liu rose to a favorite’s status with the withdrawals of the Russians but could not take advantage – the 16-year-old fell on her opening triple axel attempt and later received an under-rotation call on her triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. The American is still well in contention as she is currently fourth with a score of 67.72 points.
Results after short program:
- Kaori SAKAMOTO (JPN) – 76.56
- Mana KAWABE (JPN) – 73.88
- Young YOU (KOR) – 68.08
- Alysa LIU (USA) – 67.72
- Eunsoo LIM (KOR) – 65.23
- Amber GLENN (USA) – 63.43
- Rino MATSUIKE (JPN) – 63.34
- Nicole SCHOTT (GER) – 59.26
- Seoyeong WI (KOR) – 58.23
In the pairs’ event, reigning World champions, of Russia, Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov achieved a new personal best short program score. Mishina and Galliamov began their routine with a triple twist lift and then Mishina landed a triple flip throw. Later, the duo completed side-by-side triple Salchows. They earned a score of 78.40 points for their performance.
Compatriots of the winners, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov began their short program performance with side-by-side triple toe loops. Next, the Russian pair completed a triple twist lift and Tarasova landed a triple loop throw. The three-time Worlds medalists received a score of 75.78 points in the short program event.
Silver medalists at Skate America three weeks ago, Japanese pair Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara placed behind the two Russian couples in the short program. They did side-by-side triple toe loops and Miura landed the triple Lutz throw. They earned a new personal best score of 73.98 points.
Results after short program:
- Anastasia MISHINA / Aleksandr GALLIAMOV (RUS) – 78.40
- Evgenia TARASOVA / Vladimir MOROZOV (RUS) – 75.78
- Riku MIURA / Ryuichi KIHARA (JPN) – 73.98
- Ashley CAIN-GRIBBLE / Timothy LEDUC (USA) – 70.75
- Audrey LU / Misha MITROFANOV (USA) – 64.95
- Evelyn WALSH / Trennt MICHAUD (CAN) – 56.97
- Minerva Fabienne HASE / Nolan SEEGERT (GER) – 54.63
2021 World champions in ice dance Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov finished at the top of their event after the rhythm dance – the Russians received a high score in the mid-80s and narrowly held off two-time World medalists, from the U.S., Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who received a new personal best score.
Skating to You Can Leave Your Hat On by Joe Cocker and Brick House by The Commodores, Sinitsina and Katsalapov received a score of 86.33 points for their performance lead the event. Chock and Bates are just 0.31 points behind the top couple after the rhythm dance – performing their routine to a mixture of songs by Billie Eilish, the Americans earned a total score of 86.02 points. The latter was a new personal best result.
Results after rhythm dance:
- Victoria SINITSINA / Nikita KATSALAPOV (RUS) – 86.33
- Madison CHOCK / Evan BATES (USA) – 86.02
- Lilah FEAR / Lewis GIBSON (GBR) – 76.43
- Sara HURTADO / Kirill KHALIAVIN (ESP) – 76.40
- Marjorie LAJOIE / Zachary LAGHA (CAN) – 74.45
- Kana MURAMOTO / Daisuke TAKAHASHI (JPN) – 70.74
- Misato KOMATSUBARA / Tim KOLETO (JPN) – 68.13
- Alexandra NAZAROVA / Maxim NIKITIN (UKR) – 66.07
- Sofia SHEVCHENKO / Igor EREMENKO (RUS) – 65.17