Photo/IllutrationRika Kihira skates in a gala exhibition of the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver on Dec. 9 (Takayuki Kakuno)

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VANCOUVER--Japan's new queen of the ice, Rika Kihira, continued to captivate spectators a day after claiming gold in the women's competition at the figure skating Grand Prix Final.

Kihira, looking resplendent in a purplish asymmetric costume, mesmerized the crowd with her triple salchow and other jumps in a gala exhibition on Dec. 9.

Kihira, 16, expressed delight in winning the competition in her debut season the morning after her impressive feat on Dec. 8.

“I am really happy about finishing first,” she said with a smile.

Her next competition is the All-Japan Figure Skating Championships, which starts Dec. 21 in Kadoma, Osaka Prefecture.

“It is an important competition that concludes this year,” she said. “I want to give a flawless performance for the people who support me.”

Shoma Uno, who finished with a silver medal in the men’s Grand Prix Final, skated in the gala exhibition in a black outfit with a red tie. Audiences cheered loudly when he performed a Klimkin eagle.

Four-time Japanese national champion Satoko Miyahara, who placed sixth in the women's final, said, “What I missed most in the Grand Prix Final was my mental aspect.”

She will enter the All-Japan Figure Skating Championships hoping to win her fifth consecutive national title.

“There is not much time left until the championships,” Miyahara said. “I need to regain my confidence and practice hard.”

Kaori Sakamoto, who just missed out on a spot on the podium with her fourth-place finish in her first women's Grand Prix Final, said she took the result positively as a stepping stone to a better finish in the upcoming Japanese nationals.

“If I had stood on the podium by winning bronze, I would have probably entered the championships in a half-dreamlike state,” she said. “So, my finish at this competition was meant to spur me on to fight better in the championships.”

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who won silver in the women's Grand Prix Final, appeared in a black costume in the gala exhibition, completing jumps with ease and flashing a smile in response to chants of “Arina” from the audience.

Sporting a flight attendant's costume, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia, who took bronze in the women's Grand Prix Final, charmed spectators with her alluring performance at the exhibition.


The following are questions from reporters and Kihira’s answers during a media session in the morning after she won the women’s Grand Prix Final in Vancouver.

Q: Are you feeling that you really won the Grand Prix Final?

A: I was very happy for 30 minutes after I completed my free program. But I am so tired right now that I don’t know. Still, it makes me really happy about finishing first.

Q: What do you want to achieve in the All-Japan Figure Skating Championships to be held later this month?

A: Skating flawlessly in both the short and free programs.

Q: How do you assess your current level in terms of preparation to win gold in the 2022 Beijing Winter Games?

A: I am 10 percent prepared. I have a long way to go.

Q: Is that 10 percent mental or technical?

A: The Olympics are more than three years away. You cannot get injured, and there are many dangers. And it is not easy to complete your program without making an error. I somehow managed to do it. But with more pressure expected on me, it is a challenge to accomplish it. I have never had such an experience before.

Q: What is your assessment of your current program component score, compared with the program you want to do during the Olympics?

A: I think it is 80 percent.

Q: What is the remaining 20 percent?

A: A quadruple jump.

Q: Do you feel you will have to land a quadruple jump?

A: It is hard to predict the trend of skating in the coming years, but I want to practice and to be prepared. I think I should be ahead, well, well ahead of others.

Q: In your skating, are there elements that you have learned from or been inspired by Alina Zagitova or the other top skaters?

A: In the past, I closely watched many skaters during the official practice session. It was like I watched them longer than I practiced. This time, I did not watch them at all. So, I was not affected by my rivals at all.

Q: You have said you are motivated to compete in the Beijing Olympics. Were you inspired to want to participate in the Olympics?

A: After I began skating when I was young, I realized the Olympics are held only once every four years. I worked really hard to get better. I even cut back on sleep to practice to win gold in the Olympics.