Figure skating: Teen starlet Kihira back in spotlight in France

Japanese starlet Rika Kihira returns to the spotlight on Saturday at the Internationaux de France, with the final spots for the Grand Prix Final on the line.

Kihira produced a sensational performance to win the NHK Trophy on her Grand Prix debut earlier this month and the 16-year-old can secure her place in the elite Dec. 6-8 final in Vancouver by finishing inside the top four at the sixth leg of the GP Series in Grenoble.

One of only a handful of women to perform a triple axel in competition, Kihira opened her free skate Japan’s Grand Prix event by executing the jump in combination with a triple toe loop before landing it a second time on its own en route to a come-from-behind victory in Hiroshima.

Her one hiccup with the triple axel in Hiroshima gave her a mountain to climb after finishing fifth in her short program.

«I messed up the triple axel in the short program at the NHK Trophy so I definitely want to nail it this time,» Kihira said Friday of her fall earlier this month.

«I am not going to have (qualifying for) the (Grand Prix) Final on my mind. I just want to get through one event without making any mistakes.»

Kihira successfully landed the triple axel and looked sharp in this week’s official practice on Friday.

She will be up against Russian two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva, who after taking bronze at Skate Canada needs a win to secure her ticket to the Final in Vancouver.

Grand Prix Helsinki silver medalist Stanislava Konstantinova of Russia also has a chance to go to the Final, while other contenders include Kihira’s compatriot Mai Mihara.

Marin Honda, who appears to have recovered after hurting her right ankle at Skate America, is also entered in the women’s competition from Japan, while Keiji Tanaka is competing in the men’s event.

All — Kyodo News+

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