U.S., Japan in first after men's, women's short programs at Grand Prix Final

By The Canadian Press
December 6, 2018 - 11:45pm

VANCOUVER — Japanese figure skater Shoma Uno wasn't happy with his performance at the Grand Prix Finals on Thursday.

The 20-year-old sat in second after the men's short program with 91.67 points, but said he wasn't able to execute anything he's been working on in training.

"It really was not a great performance today," he said through a translator.

"I wish I could say there was a reason for that but there isn't any. I just couldn't do my jumps properly."

Uno is one of the favourites in the competition, after his teammate and reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu dropped out with an ankle injury.

American Nathan Chen was first after the short program, finishing with 92.99 points.

The current world champion made a mistake on his quad toe loop-triple toe loop combo, which cost him some points, but was ready to move past the error and focus on his next skate.

"The free is the most important thing now," Chen said. "What I did in the past just stays in the past. I can't change what I did. So I just have to use what I did and evolve it into the long program."

At least one of the men skating on Thursday was happy with his performance.

Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic is back in the finals for the first time in seven years and sat in third after the short with 89.21 points.

"I think with the performance that I showed today, even though it wasn't perfect, I think I proved that it wasn't just a mistake that I made it," he said.

Getting back to the top of the skating world has been a long road full of hard work for the 28-year-old.

Nearly three years ago, he moved to Los Angeles to train with coach Rafael Arutunian, who also works with Chen.

Brezina said the coaching change has pushed him and reignited his motivation on the ice.

"It's a little bit different, mainly because of the way he approaches practice," he said. "There's never one day that we will practice the same thing. He always comes up with new ways to make your day miserable. But it works."

Canadian skater Keegan Messing finished last in the short program with 79.56 points.

The 26-year-old touched down on his triple axel and said he felt off on every jump.

"I just had to tuck and pray a little bit. I stayed on my feet and I can leave happy with that," said Messing, who's the only senior Canadian skater in the competition.

"I fought for every little element out there."

Japan's breakout star Rika Kihira dominated the women's short program on Friday, finishing first with 82.51 points.

"I was able to perform very calmly. Obviously I was very happy with the score," the 16-year-old said through a translator.  

Her closest competition was reigning Olympic champion Alina Zagitova from Russia, who finished in second with 77.93 points.

"Today I felt a little tense," Zagitova said through a translator. "But I'm glad I was able to pull myself together."

The tension came from nerves, she added.

"It all comes from the head," the 16-year-old said. "But you just have to go out and do it."

Zagitova's teammate Elizaveta Tuktamysheva rounded out the women's top three after the short, posting a score of 70.65.

The finals competition continues Friday with the men's free skate, and the pairs and ice dancers short programs.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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