Japanese Pair Miura, Kihara Win Four Continents Skating Championship

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Riku Miura, left, and Ryuichi Kihara celebrates winning the pairs competition at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Colorado on Saturday.

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara became the first Japanese pairs skaters to win the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships when they overcame a couple of mistakes in their free skate to easily win the title Saturday.

Unbeaten in international competition this year, Kihara spun out on the final double axel of their opening jump sequence, and the pair was sloppy on their triple salchow and throw triple flip. But it was still good enough to score 137.05 points for a total of 208.24, and easily outdistance the American team of Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe.

Miura and Kihara collapsed to the ice after their program, set to the musical project “Sleeping at Last,” and tried to catch their breath in the thin air of the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“It was really tough skating at this altitude,” Kihara said, “but the cheers of the audience kept our legs moving.”

The men’s free skate was later Saturday.

Chan and Howe, who were second to world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier at the recent U.S. championships, were third after their short program. But they put together a strong free skate — they were a little out of sync on their triple toe loops and shaky on the throws late in the program — to vault to the silver medal with 201.11 points.

Canadian champions Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps struggled to a third-place finish with 193.84 points.

“It was an amazing performance and it definitely felt like one of the best we have had this season,” said Howe, who along with Chan finished second in both of their Grand Prix assignments at the NHK Trophy and Skate Canada.

“It’s amazing to come to Colorado Springs,” Howe said. “A lot of the talk was about the altitude, so to come here and give this performance — our season best — was amazing. It feels amazing.”

Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps went awry when she put her hand down on their throw triple flip, then during a messy triple salchow when he fell and she spun out. They rallied to finish strong and secure the bronze medal.

“Just finishing that program with all of those lifts was hard,” an out-of-breath Deschamps said.

Meanwhile, the only thing to stop Miura and Kihara this season has been a storm: They had to withdraw from the Japanese championships when a winter storm caused them to lose their luggage en route from Canada, and with it their skates.

Otherwise, the seventh-place finishers at the Beijing Olympics have swept the NHK Trophy and Skate Canada along with the Grand Prix Final, where they topped Knierim and Frazier; a rematch is expected at next month’s world championships.

“It was kind of a challenge to see how far we can go,” Miura said. “We had some small mistakes, but we tried our best and we are happy with the outcome. … We had a good warm up before the free skating and it worked.”