Rika Kihira shakes up world order at NHK Trophy

Japanese 16-year-old wins on her ISU Grand Prix debut, beating compatriot Satoko Miyahara and 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.

By Rory Jiwani

There is now a real threat to Russia's dominance of ladies' figure skating.

It has arrived in the form of Rika Kihira who made her ISU Grand Prix debut a winning one on home ice at the NHK Trophy in Hiroshima.

The 16-year-old was only fifth after the short program, but scored 154.72 with a stunning free skate to take victory.

Kihira fell trying a triple Axel in Friday's short program and told ISU she had doubts about attempting the jump again this weekend:

"Yesterday there were some concerns about my triple Axel, but in the morning practice I checked on my Axel and this was reflected in my performance.

"After the short program I wasn’t sure if I could come back and be here today. The mistake motivated me today, but I didn’t imagine I could get such a high score."

She finished ahead of fellow Japanese, Skate America winner Satoko Miyahara, with 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva in third having led after the short program.

Bright future

Kihira demonstrated an array of jumps greater even than Olympic champion Alina Zagitova.

And her sub-70 program component score (PCS) of 67.55 shows there is room for further improvement, giving her a real chance of beating the Russia's world record of 158.50 set in the Nebelhorn Trophy.

There was a big reaction on social media to Kihira's win with some believing she can challenge Zagitova for number one status.

Scoring-wise, the NHK Trophy was easily the best of the ISU Grand Prix so far.

Skate Canada victor Tuktamysheva scored higher in both programs in Hiroshima, but could only manage third place.

Miyahara's 219.47 was less than a quarter of a point worse than her winning total at Skate America.

Miyahara and Tuktamysheva both did enough to reach December's Grand Prix Final in Vancouver.

Kihira will join them if she avoids mishaps at the Internationaux de France in Grenoble in two weeks' time.