Golden Skate

Virtual tie for Tuktamysheva; Miyahara at NHK Trophy

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia performs her Short Program at 2018 NHK Trophy. 

2018 NHK Trophy

Ladies Figure Skating

Less than a tenth of a point separates Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Japan’s Satoko Miyahara following the short program at the 2018 NHK Trophy on Friday in Hiroshima, Japan.

The Russian’s opening triple Axel and triple toe-triple toe combination earned her a total of 76.17 points, just ahead of the world bronze medalist and crowd favorite, who collected 76.08 points and began her “Song for the Little Sparrow” routine with a triple Lutz- triple toe combination. Both skaters showed strong spins and footwork, earning high grades of execution (GOE) in all their elements as well as a new season’s best score.

“I started with a triple Axel in my program because I knew I needed something strong in order to compete with the others in the program,” said Tuktamysheva. “I did a similar program in the past, but I didn’t do that well, so I lowered my expectations. I didn’t sleep that well the night before, so I was nervous, but once I was able to land all of my elements, I was happy about the performance.”

Tuktamysheva, who won Skate Canada two weeks ago, skated to “Assassin’s Tango.”

“I agree that our scores are very close because Satoko is doing well, so I look forward to tomorrow’s long program,” the 21-year-old from Saint Petersburg added.

Miyahara opened up the Grand Prix season with a Skate America victory and is the four-time defending Japanese champion.

“Leading up to the competition, I had good jumping days and bad jumping days, so overall, I was nervous,” admitted the 2018 World bronze medalist, who had had the highest program component scores. “I changed my jump to a loop to avoid point reductions. Going into the free program, I want to do all of my jumps cleanly and improve on my mistakes I made in the short program. In today’s program, I was able to do my jumps better than I expected. Even if I am having a very well competition, I tend to get nervous. I think I was able to stay calm during the actual performance, so my mental state was better.”

Teammate Mai Mihara under-rotated the back end of her opening triple Lutz-triple toe loop, but later found redemption with a marvelous triple flip and sits in bronze medal position with 70.38 points.

“The training up to today was really hard,” said the 19-year-old from Kobe, Japan, “but thanks to my supporters and my coach, I was able to perform in front of an audience today. During today’s performance, I was able to recall the training I had done that gave me confidence. I wish I had done better, of course, after that first triple jump. Even then I had an under-rotation, but I was still happy I was able to do it.”

“I’ve never skated at the end, so it was different experience because I saw everyone else’s performance and points,” added the 2018 Four Continents silver medalist. “But I was not worried about it because I wasn’t competing with the others, I was competing with myself, so that was a good growth opportunity. The coaches told me to focus on the jumps and steps. I was able to focus on each element movement per the advice of the coaches and that was helpful.”

In fourth place is South Korea’s Eun-Soo Lim with a new personal best of 69.78 points. The 2018 CS Asian Trophy champion was clean in her routine to Somewhere in Time with the exception of an edge call on the triple Lutz-triple toe.

Rika Kihira of Japan, who under-rotated and fell on the triple Axel, is in fifth place with 69.59.

“It was the Grand Prix series, but I didn’t think about it,” the 16-year-old who won the Japanese Junior national title. “I just felt happy. That’s what my coach told me to do. I didn’t think about the triple Axel, I just focused on each jump. I want to go into the long program confident about my jumps and make my fans happy. I want to feel the audience and make them enjoy the program.”

“I was focused on the triple Axel, and I imagined it in my mind, but it was a little mis-slanted,” said the skater who became the first lady to land a triple Axel combination in international competition last year at the Junior Grand Prix Final. “Maybe I could adjust it at practice. I thought there would be a lot of pressure because it was a large audience, and they are supporting me. It’s all about the right image. I saw the replay and saw it was under-rotated.”

Alena Leonova of Russia and USA’s Mariah Bell and Angela Wang round out sixth through eighth place.