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Mihara Mai tops women's short program at British Grand Prix as Guignard/ Fabbri hold off home hopes in ice dance

The 23-year-old Mihara is ahead of American teen Isabeau Levito by just 0.17 points, while the Italian ice dancers lead British crowd favourites Fear/ Gibson. 

5 min By Nick McCarvel | Created on 12 November 2022
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(Picture by 2021 Getty Images)

In the 10th Grand Prix event of her career, Japan's Mihara Mai is on the cusp of winning her first.

The reigning and two-time Four Continents champion, 23, skated into first place on Saturday (12 November) in Sheffield at the MK John Wilson Trophy, the first-ever figure skating Grand Prix event to be held in Great Britain.

Mihara pumped her fists above her head upon finishing her "Merry Christmas" short program, earning a 72.23. She's a sliver ahead of American teenager Isabeau Levito, who earned a 72.06 for her short.

Anastasiia Gubanova sits third with a 66.82.

You Young, one of the pre-event favourites, doubled the second part of her planned triple-triple combination and fell to sixth (61.21). Fan favourite Ekaterina Kurakova is fourth at 63.46 while another American teen - Gabriella Izzo - sits fifth (62.92).

The British Grand Prix replaces the traditional Cup of China, which was moved this season due to ongoing pandemic restrictions there. It's the fourth of six stops on the Grand Prix Series, with skaters looking to book a place at the coveted Grand Prix Final next month in Turin, Italy.

Earlier in the ice dance rhythm dance, Italians Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri carried the momentum from their first-ever Grand Prix gold last week at Grand Prix de France by skating into the lead. Their 86.30 is just about a point ahead of home favourites Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson, who registered a 85.37.

Saturday night is set to feature the conclusion of the pairs and men's events, with reigning world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier leading after the short, while Canada's Roman Sadovsky is ahead in the men's and in search of his first-ever Grand Prix title, as well.

PREVIEW:What to watch for at British GP in Sheffield

Mihara, Levito in dead heat ahead of free skate

Can Mihara win a first Grand Prix gold at the 10th time of asking? Or will the 15-year-old Levito level up in just her second senior Grand Prix appearance?

Both were impressive on Saturday, with Mihara earning the lead thanks to superior Program Component (artistry) scores (34.15 to 33.99). Both women executed a triple flip, double Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe-loop combination, their technical marks nearly identical.

Levito, too, broke into a big smile following the completion of her program. The reigning world junior champion won silver at Skate America last month, while this marks Mihara's season debut.

Levito should secure herself a spot in the Grand Prix Final with a top two finish here.

Gubanova of Georgia was impressive in her performance, as well, the 19-year-old having finished sixth at the World Championships last season. She opted for a triple flip-triple toe to open her Fabrizio Paterlini medley.

You, the Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 champion, was hindered not only by a doubled jump on the back-end of her combination but also an under-rotated triple Lutz and an unclear edge on her flip.

Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell made her comeback to competitive skating after 20 months away due to a foot injury. She fell twice in her program and finished in 10th with a 56.50, but said being back on the ice was a win itself.

"There was a lack of confidence - the nerves of being back," said Tennell, who had skate blade issues prior to competing. "Everyone has to start somewhere and I've spent much of the last 18 months thinking I wouldn't be back. So I'm just grateful I was able to go out there and skate."

MORE:How You Young found her inspiration again

Ice dance: Guignard/ Fabbri hold off home hopes

Not even a myriad of travel challenges could stop Guignard/Fabbri from performing their best on Saturday, the duo detailing a car journey gone wrong after they took the lead in the rhythm dance - arriving in Birmingham instead of Sheffield.

But they looked collected in their rhythm, which includes a Grace Jones medley, earning Level 4s for their twizzle sequence and positive GOEs (Grades of Execution) across their technical elements.

"We stepped on the ice and performed... just how we do in practices, that was the mental approach," said Fabbri, who said the team didn't make any program changes between their Grand Prix win last week and now.

Fear and Gibson received the loudest roar of the afternoon, the home crowd buoying them to a score just shy of their career best (85.80).

"The crowd was amazing," Fear said after.

Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha of Canada are third with a 81.09, fresh off their first-ever Grand Prix medal at Skate Canada two weeks ago.

Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko of the U.S. are fourth with a 75.00, while Natalie Taschlerova and Flip Taschler of the Czech Republic rounded out the top five (74.09).

Both the women's free and ice dance free dance will take place on Sunday afternoon (13 November).

MORE:Fear and Gibson enter next phase in 'fresh' Olympic quad

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