NHK Trophy favorites upstaged in short programs
World champions Kaori Sakamoto and Shoma Uno and three-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates all surprisingly trail after the first day of NHK Trophy, the fifth of six stops on figure skating’s Grand Prix Series.
Yelim Kim led the women’s short program with a clean, 72.22-point performance. Kim, trying to become the second South Korean to win a Grand Prix after 2010 Olympic champion Yuna Kim, has a 4.15-point lead over Sakamoto going into Saturday’s free skate (live on Peacock).
Sakamoto, skating in front of a home crowd in Japan, under-rotated the second half of her triple flip-triple toe loop combination.
“All my jumps were unsatisfactory,” Sakamoto said, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “This is one of the major events in Japan, and this makes me nervous. In Japan there are still restrictions in place – you cannot cheer loudly, and in the performance it hit me, ‘I am skating in Japan.’ Nationals is the one I am really nervous at, and the NHK Trophy is almost the same.”
Americans Starr Andrews and Amber Glenn, who earned their first Grand Prix podiums this season, are fifth and 11th, respectively. They likely need to finish in the top three to qualify for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final.
Sota Yamamoto, eighth at last season’s Japan Championships, is the surprise men’s leader after countryman Uno fell on a quad toe loop.
Yamamoto tallied 96.49 points, distancing Uno by 4.83. Both men are in position to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, which is an anticipated showdown between Uno and American Ilia Malinin (who can qualify next week).
Chock and Bates are also in position to qualify for the Final, but they also trail after Friday’s rhythm dance. Canadians Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen, who were ninth at the Olympics, outscored them on technical elements and totaled 85.66 points, edging the Americans by .66.
“I walked out and saw our name on top, and I couldn’t really believe it,” Sørensen said, according to the ISU.
The one favorite to top the standings Friday was the world’s top-ranked pairs’ team, Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan.
They scored 78.25 points and take a comfortable 13.63-point lead over Americans Emily Chan and Spencer Howe into Saturday’s free skate. Both pairs are in position to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, where world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier await.
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