Japanese teen skater Kihira keeps title at Four Continents

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Japanese teenager Rika Kihira won the women’s free skate on Saturday to capture the Four Continents figure skating title for the second straight year. She is the first skater to win back-to-back events in the history of the event.

The 17-year-old Kihira received 151.16 points for a total of 232.34. South Korea’s Young You moved up to second place with a total of 223.23 points while Bradie Tennell of the United States, second after the short program, finished third with 222.97.

Kihira, who led after the short program, opened her routine with a triple salchow but then singled her planned first triple axel. Maintaining her composure, Kihira went on to land a triple axel-double toeloop combination.

She added six more triple jumps en route to her victory.

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“My goal was to get the first place twice in a row in this Four Continents championship,” Kihira said. “So I became a little bit impatient because of my first mistake in the axel. But I was able to re-calculate and re-assemble the structure of my performance.”

You, 15, was skating in her first senior season and became the first South Korean medalist at this annual event since Yuna Kim in 2009. She also landed a clean triple axel and achieved a personal best of 149.68.

“I was very happy to do the triple axel and then there was no mistake in my jumps,” You said. “I focused on a clean performance. Especially since this event was held in Korea I had a little pressure. I got a good result and I’m very happy about it.”

Tennell overcame a shaky opening triple lutz-triple toe combination to produce a total of seven triples for a season’s best with 147.04 points.

“Breaking my season’s best has given me a very good confidence boost,” Tennell said. “At this competition I feel like I was able to relax and skate the way that I do every day. That’s kind of been my goal not only this year but also last year. I feel like I never quite achieved it last year.

Japanese skaters Wakaba Higuchi and Kaori Sakamoto were fourth and fifth respectively. South Korea’s Yelim Kim was sixth followed by Karen Chen of the United States.

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