Pair skaters Miura, Kihara finish Japan-best 7th

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara perform in the pairs free skate on Saturday at the Beijing Games.

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who were eighth after the pairs short program at the Beijing Games, earned the fifth-best score in the free skate with 141.04 points on Saturday, giving them a total of 211.89 for seventh place overall, Japan’s highest Olympic finish in the event.

Miura, who flubbed a jump in the short program on Friday, fell again in practice on Saturday and appeared to be disconsolate.

“It’s OK to mess up on everything, so let’s just go out and enjoy it,” Kihara told her before their routine. His words brought the smile back to Miura’s face.

This came years after Kihara had gotten a boost from Miura, who has provided him with the opportunity to compete on the world stage again.

“I wonder if it was foolish for me to switch [to pairs] after turning 20,” said Kihara, who has long struggled with an inferiority complex.

At each of the past two Olympics, Kihara qualified for the Games only because other skaters were unable to participate, prompting him to say, “I felt out of place.”

Both times, he failed to advance to the free skate.

He met Miura in 2019 and his confidence grew because of their chemistry. And thanks to that connection, he vowed to develop to better compete on the international stage.

He set up training equipment at his home in Canada and worked to get physically stronger. “I used to wear a small. Now I wear extra large. I’ve put on at least 20 kilograms.”

The pair’s throw jumps, on which he lifts Miura, have become more stable and have increased in distance, and Miura’s strong core and his ability to make dynamic moves have led to his rapid advancement this season.

Just before they stepped onto the ice, Kihara expressed his appreciation to Miura, saying, “Thank you for getting me into my first free skate.”

Their throw jumps were successful and their three lifts were at Level 4, the highest level of difficulty. With smiles on their faces, they showed their dynamism.

The pair set new personal bests in the free skate and also with their overall score in giving Japan its highest finish in pairs.

Miura gave Kihara a tight embrace and Kihara began to weep after the two struck their finishing pose.