Rika Kihira was indeed the favorite to win these World Championships thanks to her triple axels. In that respect, she is indeed unique: no other senior skater in the world can perform multiple jumps with three and a half rotations. However, this time around, the Japanese skater was unable to complete those elements.
In the short program, she performed only one rotation instead of three, producing an element that has no point value under the current system. That error left her in seventh place and ultimately proved fatal. In her free skate, Kihira fell while attempting to complete her second axel, and that prevented her from making up enough distance to earn a medal. However, in future competitions, Kihira will continue to present a serious threat to her competitors.
What is this I’m hearing about a Kazakhstani skater performing a historic jump? Elizabet Tursynbayeva became the first senior woman in the history of figure skating to perform a quadruple jump in competition successfully. Many had suspected that honor would go to one of Russia’s current junior skaters when they begin competing as seniors next year.
The word “successfully” means that Tursynbayeva completed the required number of rotations in the air and did not fall when she landed. That accomplishment has landed the Kazakhstani athlete in the history books. She, like Zagitova, trains with Eteri Tutberidze.
Until now, only three female skaters had managed to perform quadruple jumps in international competition, but they all competed in the juniors’ category. These were Miki Ando, Alexandra Trusova, and Anna Shcherbakova. Tursynbayeva made her first attempt to change that fact in February at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships but fell when she landed on the ice.
Following her incredible debut season on the senior international circuit, teenage star Rika Kihira said she is preparing to take the figure skating world by storm once again by expanding her repertoire of jumps during the offseason.
The 16-year-old Japanese had a sensational start to her senior career this past season by winning six of her seven individual events at international meets.
"(The season) felt long," she told Kyodo News in a recent interview. "It was my first on the senior circuit. I considered every meet crucial, so I didn't want to win by luck. I was quick off the mark and I just gave it my all."
"I did my absolute best in every single meet, and I think I gained something from all of them."
Among a handful of women who have landed triple axels in competition, Kihira aims to go above and beyond by adding quad jumps to her arsenal.
The teenager said she hopes to include one quad to her free program in addition to one triple axel, with one in the first half of the routine and the other later. She also revealed that she takes Japan's double Olympic men's champ Yuzuru Hanyu's "beautiful" quad jumps as a model to emulate.
"I want to be able to nail a quad jump before the start of next season," she said. "I need to build up not only my core strength but my lower body as well. (Hanyu's) jumps have a flow to them with no wasted energy."
The rising star entered March's world championships on home ice as a medal favorite. However, she only managed a fourth as Zagitova won her maiden title. Kihira was seventh after the short program, in which she singled her opening triple axel, before moving up three spots by placing second in the free skate at Saitama Super Arena, near Tokyo.
"In order to nail the three and a half-rotation jump, everything depends on the timing of the takeoff, which has to be within one-tenth of a second," she explained. "My feel for the ice differs depending on the skates or the rink, so it all depends on how much I can get used to everything at each venue."
She expects a tough competition next season when Russian skaters with quads in their repertoires debut on the senior circuit. "Last season (when I competed on the junior circuit), I thought I couldn't beat them. But I've really worked hard on the senior circuit this year. I need to try harder and overcome this challenge," she said.
"I need to keep doing the things I've been doing and not change the way I skate. I want to take on new challenges, but I need to maintain stability. It's no use if I change what I've been doing."
Two-time Olympic figure skating gold medalist and the People's Honor Award winner Yuzuru Hanyu performed at an ice show in this city's Mihama Ward, east of Tokyo, on May 24, charming some 5,000 spectators.
Joining him in the show were Evgeni Plushenko, of Russia, a gold medalist at the 2006 Turin Olympics, Javier Fernandez, of Spain, a bronze medalist at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, Shizuka Arakawa, of Japan, a gold medalist at the Turin event, Rika Kihira, of Japan, and Alina Zagitova, of Russia, a gold medalist at the Pyeongchang Games.