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Figure skating: 16-year-old Kihira wins NHK Trophy on debut

Sixteen-year-old Rika Kihira on Saturday won the NHK Trophy in her Grand Prix debut following an outstanding free skate performance.

The Japanese high schooler, who placed fifth following the short program on Friday, scored 154.72 in the free skate for a 224.31 total.

She finished 4.84 points ahead of countrywoman Satoko Miyahara, who edged short program top-scorer Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia for silver by just 0.45 point.

One of only a handful of women to perform a triple axel in competition, Kihira opened her free skate by executing the jump in combination with a triple toe loop before landing it a second time on its own.

The youngster, who fell attempting a triple axel in the short program, said she had been determined to land the jump during her free skate at Hiroshima Green Arena.

«I couldn’t do the triple axel yesterday, so this morning I really practiced it a lot, making sure I could do it. I’m really happy I landed it,» said Kihira, whose routine was met with a standing ovation.

«I’ll remember this moment. I want to focus on the next (Grand Prix round) without forgetting my performance today.»

The last woman on the ice, Miyahara, 20, landed all of her jumps including a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination to score 143.39 for her free skate.

The 21-year-old Tuktamysheva — who took gold at the 2015 Shanghai worlds ahead of Miyahara — opened with a triple axel on the way to a free skate score of 142.85.

Nineteen-year-old Mai Mihara, who placed third after the short program, finished 14.82 points behind Tuktamysheva in fourth place.

All — Kyodo News+

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