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Figure skating: Kihira looks to end sparkling GP season with flourish at Final

Sixteen-year-old Japanese starlet Rika Kihira will be looking to cap a sensational debut campaign on the ISU Grand Prix of figure skating circuit with victory in the concluding event which begins Thursday.

Kihira goes into the elite Grand Prix Final in Vancouver brimming with confidence, having followed up her triumph in Japan at the NHK Trophy with a win at the Internationaux de France, the sixth and final leg of this season’s Grand Prix series, last month.

Victory in Vancouver would see Kihira become the first Japanese woman to win the Grand Prix Final on her debut season since now retired former world champion Mao Asada achieved the feat in 2005.

(Rika Kihira)

Speaking after official practice on Wednesday, Kihira said, «Practice has gone according to plan. I want to finish this event with a good result.»

Kihira is one of only a handful of women to perform in competition a triple axel, the difficult three-and-a-half revolution jump.

During her 40-minute practice on Wednesday she looked in fine form, landing eight of 11 triple axels.

Reigning Olympic and Grand Prix Final champion Alina Zagitova of Russia headlines the women’s field that features three Japanese and three Russians.

(Alina Zagitova)

Zagitova and Kihira are up against Japan’s world bronze medalist Satoko Miyahara and Russia’s 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. Kaori Sakamoto is the other Japanese skater in the women’s event.

Miyahara will be competing in her fourth consecutive Grand Prix Final.

«I have been able to practice in top condition so I want to take confidence (into the competition),» said Miyahara.

(Satoko Miyahara)

Sakamoto, who like Kihira is making her debut in the Final said, «I’m fired up. I want to outperform the Russians.»

Japan’s Shoma Uno will be hoping to go one better than his runner-up finish at last year’s Final in the absence of compatriot and two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who misses out due to a right ankle injury.

«I think if I give my best performance then the (right) result will follow,» said Uno.

American quad king and reigning world champion Nathan Chen is the man most likely to block Uno’s path to glory.

Chen and Uno won both Grand Prix events they entered during the six-leg series.

(Shoma Uno (L) and Nathan Chen)

All — Kyodo News+

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