Miura, Kihara Bag Japan’s 1st World Pairs Gold

Jiji Press
Riku Miura, left, and Ryuichi Kihara celebrate after winning the pairs event at the world championships in Saitama on Thursday.

SAITAMA (AFP-Jiji) — Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara claimed Japan’s first figure skating pairs world title in its history on Thursday in front of an expectant crowd in Saitama.

Miura and Kihara had taken the overnight lead with a personal-best short program score, and sealed the deal in the free skate to finish ahead of American rivals Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier.

The pair finished with an overall score of 222.16, ahead of Knierim and Frazier on 217.48 and third-place Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii of Italy on 208.08.

Miura and Kihara’s win has stoked hopes of a Japanese clean sweep among home fans as the country hosts the world championships for the first time since 2019.

Russian skaters have again been banned from the competition because of the war in Ukraine.

Cheered on by the crowd, Miura and Kihara gave a largely solid performance, although a slip by Miura late in the routine left them sweating on the judges’ score.

The pair, who have competed together since 2019, broke down in tears once their victory was confirmed.

Knierim and Frazier went into the free skate in second place but a wobbly landing on one jump from Knierim gave them too much work to do to catch the leaders.

The American pair had finished second behind Miura and Kihara by just one point at the Grand Prix final in December.

Miura and Kihara also won the Four Continents title in February.