Kihira Rika goes into lead after ladies' short program at Four Continents

Japanese figure skater is over five points clear of USA's Bradie Tennell.

By ZK Goh

Japan's Kihira Rika has won the ladies' short program at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

Her score of 81.18 was just short of her season's best, but buoyed by three clean jump elements, she finished more than five points clear of her closest challenger, American Bradie Tennell.

Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games champion You Young, representing host country South Korea, was third.

Earlier, USA's Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue won the ice dance short dance, while Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro were the surprise pairs short program winners.

Defending champion blows rivals away

Kihira, the defending ladies' singles champion, wore a purple dress she'd previously used at the Grand Prix Final in Turin as she skated to Breakfast in Baghdad.

The 17-year-old opened with a flawless triple Axel, and mesmerised a smaller-than-usual crowd throughout her routine.

Fans are staying away due to recent coronavirus fears, but Kihira did not seem fazed by the empty seats in the arena.

She treated those present to a solid triple flip, triple toe-loop combination for her second jump, before concluding with a triple Lutz, with that jump making a return to her program.

Her Program Component Score, reflecting different areas of her performance, was 35.02; only that of compatriot Sakamoto Kaori was higher at 35.44.

Kihira's clean execution of her jumps and spins earned 46.16 for technical elements, over five points better than Tennell, which made up the bulk of the difference in their total scores.

Tennell, who earned 75.93 points in total for her routine, does not have a triple Axel in her arsenal.

The American's double Axel was accompanied by a triple Lutz, triple toe-loop combination and a triple flip.

Japan's Kihira Rika in ladies' short program action at the 2020 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

YOG champ You Young in medal contention

Fresh off the back of her win at Lausanne 2020, South Korea's You was heartily cheered by the home crowd.

You opened with a triple Axel, but had to step out of it, costing her a few points.

Her biggest-scoring element was a triple Lutz, triple toe-loop combination, but the 15-year-old would lose more points.

First, her triple flip was called for an unclear edge.

Then, both her step sequence and layback spin were only graded as level threes, rather than the maximum level four, which she did get on her change foot combination spin.

That was good for a total score of 73.55, around two-and-a-half points behind Tennell but well in contention for a medal in her first year as a senior.