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American Lindsay Thorngren the surprise leader at figure skating’s NHK Trophy

Lindsay Thorngren

OSAKA, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 24: Lindsay Thorngren of the United States competes in the Women’s Short Program during the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - NHK Trophy at Towa Pharmaceutical RACTAB Dome on November 24, 2023 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai - International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images)

International Skating Union via Getty Images

Lindsay Thorngren is the surprise leader at NHK Trophy, looking for the quickest Grand Prix figure skating breakthrough for a U.S. woman in 18 years.

Thorngren, 17, tallied 68.93 points in Friday’s short program, opening with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. She leads Belgian Nina Pinzarrone by a significant-but-not-comfortable 5.49 going into Saturday’s free skate, live on Peacock.

It marked Thorngren’s best short program score since September 2022 and her first positively graded triple-triple combo in the last 14 months, according to

Thorngren bids to win her maiden Grand Prix title in her fourth career Grand Prix start. It would be the quickest climb to the top of the podium for an American woman since Alissa Czisny prevailed in her fourth career Grand Prix in 2005.

NHK TROPHY: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Three weeks ago, 16-year-old Isabeau Levito won in her fifth Grand Prix start (including last year’s Grand Prix Final) to end the longest Grand Prix victory drought in U.S. women’s history. She also became the youngest U.S. woman to win a Grand Prix since Sarah Hughes in 2001.

Thorngren, from New Jersey, preceded Levito as U.S. junior champion in 2020 and after placing sixth in her senior nationals debut in 2021 was a dark horse to make the 2022 Olympic team.

She placed fifth at those January 2022 Nationals, missing the three-woman Olympic team, then took bronze in her world junior championships debut. She was sixth at last January’s nationals in her first full senior season.

This season, Thorngren said she missed a month of training due to a lower back fracture in September, according to

If current standings hold through Saturday’s free skate, Thorngren will finish seventh in this fall’s Grand Prix Series standings, missing December’s Grand Prix Final by one spot. The Grand Prix Final fields the top six skaters in the world and is often a world championships preview.

With Friday’s score, Thorngren vaulted from fifth to third in the U.S. short program rankings by best score this season, according to

She already ranks third in the U.S. by total score, and with second-ranked Bradie Tennell out for the season, Thorngren is a contender to make the two-woman team for worlds named after January’s nationals. She can cement herself as a favorite with a strong free skate Saturday.

Also Friday, Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama of Japan put up the world’s best men’s short program score this season. Kagiyama, who missed most of last season with left leg and ankle bone injuries, hit a quadruple quadruple Salchow and quad toe-triple toe combination for 105.51 points.

He leads two-time world champion Shoma Uno by 5.31 going into Saturday’s free skate. Both Kagiyama and Uno are in line to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.

World silver medalists Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy edged Brits Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson by .34 in the rhythm dance. Those two couples are, as expected, in line to fill the last two Grand Prix Final dance spots.

Germans Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nikita Volodin lead by .46 after the pairs’ short, one week after winning in their Grand Prix debut as a team. Americans Chelsea Liu and Balázs Nagy, who entered NHK with long-shot Grand Prix Final hopes, are fifth.