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Japan's Mihara Mai captures first Grand Prix title at 23, fending off American teen Isabeau Levito at British GP

Mihara was competing in a 10th career Grand Prix, winning her first. In ice dance, Guignard/ Fabbri won a second consecutive GP gold, beating home favourites Fear/ Gibson. 

5 min By Nick McCarvel | Created on 13 November 2022
mihara-mai-GettyImages-1085954722
(Picture by 2018 Getty Images)

Mihara Mai couldn't contain herself.

Skating last as the short program leader at the MK John Wilson Trophyfigure skating event in Sheffield, Great Britain, on Sunday (13 November), the 23-year-old turned in one of the performances of her career, registering a near-personal best score (145.20) and securing her first-ever Grand Prix title.

She celebrated with a spirited fist pump upon striking her final pose, then skipping across the ice in glee as the audience roared.

The Japanese skater let out tears of joy as her scores flashed across the arena's big screen.

Mihara is the reigning and two-time Four Continents champion, but this is her first GP gold - and she held off a spirited challenge from 15-year-old American Isabeau Levito, who had skated just before her and was impressive herself (143.68).

Mihara's 217.43 is just 0.18 behind the best on the Grand Prix so far this season - Sakamoto Kaori's 217.61 tally at Skate America. Levito finished with a 215.74.

Georgia's Anastasiia Gubanova finished third with a 193.11, marking a first Grand Prix medal in women's singles for her country.

Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 champion You Young rallied to finished fourth (191.36), while fan favourite Ekaterina Kourakova was solid for a second straight day, finishing fifth overall (190.44).

The ice dance also concluded Sunday, with Italians Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri winning a second consecutive gold after triumphing last week at Grand Prix de France. They soared to a 213.74, with Britain's Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson finishing in second place at 205.56.

Guignard and Fabbri are now guaranteed a spot at next month's Grand Prix Final.

Saturday night (12 November) saw the conclusion of the men's and pairs events, with 20-year-old Daniel Grassl becoming the first Italian man to win a GP gold medal in singles. Reigning world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier won in pairs by some 20 points.

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 figure skating's Grand Prix Series. NHK Trophy is set for next weekend (18 and 19 November) in Japan.

Men and pairs: Grassl, Knierim/Frazier grab GP wins Saturday

'Delighted' Mihara: 'It's the biggest happiness'

In figure skating's hierarchy, the Four Continents Championships are a bigger event than the Grand Prix Series, but Mihara, who was fifth in her lone appearance at Worlds in 2017, said Sunday topped the charts for her.

"The gold medal I received today... I am so delighted," a beaming Mihara said via an interpreter. "It's maybe the biggest happiness it gave to me. I still find it difficult to believe that I won this competition. I didn't believe that I had the ability to win... but I'm really happy that I'm here and I won this gold medal."

Skating as the 12th and final competitor, Mihara hit seven triple jumps, including four in combination, and fought through the landing on several of them, holding steady through a moving "El Amor Brujo" program.

She was buoyed by a 70.68 in Program Components (artistry) score, as well, keeping ahead of Levito who had also just performed with seven triples in her free, coming up with a career-best score.

Levito, with a silver at Skate America, is likely a lock for the GP Final next month in Turin. Mihara will skate again in two week's time at the Finnish Grand Prix, in Espoo - with her eyes on Turin, too.

The quality was strong in the final group of women, with You, Kurakova and Gubanova having each skated well prior to Levito and Mihara, the final two competitors.

2018 Olympian and two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was back on competitive ice for the first time since the World Championships in 2021 due to a lingering foot injury. She finished in 12th place.

MORE: How You Young found her inspiration again

Ice dance: Guignard/ Fabbri are double gold medallists

It's their 10th season on the Grand Prix, but not until last week did the Italian duo have a GP gold medal to their names - now they have two.

The three-time Olympians had a slim lead following the rhythm dance and didn't put a blade wrong in the free dance, their 127.44 score a career best - helping them to improve their best-ever score from earlier this season (211.85 - Lombardia Trophy).

They will compete in front of a home crowd in Turin at the GP Final in December.

Fear and Gibson were nipping at the Italians' skate boots into the free dance, but a stumble by Gibson at the tail end of the team's choreographic twizzles proved costly. That put the Brits some five points shy of their career best free dance score, giving Guignard and Fabbri room to breathe as they took to the ice last.

Fear/Gibson have two silvers to their name this season (Skate Canada), making them a near-lock for the Final, as well.

Canada's Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha (198.95) won their second bronze of the season, having finished third at Skate Canada, too.

Americans Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko were fourth with a 187.42, while the Czech Republic's Natalie Taschlerova and Filip Taschler placed fifth (177.89).

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

Charlene Guignard (L) and Marco Fabbri (ITA), Beijing 2022
Charlene Guignard (L) and Marco Fabbri (ITA), Beijing 2022 (GETTY IMAGES)

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