Mihara places fourth in short program at Four Continents

Mai Mihara placed fourth in the women’s short program at the Four Continents Championships on Thursday.

The 17-year-old Mihara scored 66.51 points in a largely error-free performance in her debut in the competition at Gangneung Ice Arena, while compatriots Rika Hongo and Wakaba Higuchi were ninth and 10th, respectively.

“I skated right until the end with a real feeling of enjoyment,” said Mihara, who was 1.97 points off her personal best.

“It’s a bit disappointing that I was fourth, but I am happy to be in the final group. I’m determined, whatever the circumstances, to skate through the free program without any mistakes.”

Gabrielle Daleman took the lead with 68.25 ahead of fellow Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond, who scored 68.21. Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan was third with 66.87.

Satoko Miyahara won this event last year but is unable to defend her title due to a hip injury. Hongo was sent as her replacement.

In ice dance, the Canadian duo of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the reigning ISU Grand Prix Finals champions, won the short dance with 79.75 points.

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, the 2016 Four Continents champions from the United States, are in second place at 76.59 points. Another American team, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, ranked third (74.67). Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed are in ninth and Emi Hirai and Marien de la Asuncion were 12th.

In the pairs, Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China, the defending champions, earned 80.75 points to shoot to the top. It was just 0.01 points shy of their personal best, set while winning silver at the 2016 world championships.

This was the Chinese duo’s first event of the season, as Sui had been sidelined with a foot injury.

They are 5.55 points ahead of another Chinese pair, Yu Xiaoyu and Zhang Hao.

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, two-time world champions from Canada, only managed 74.31 points to place third.

Sui and Han and Duhamel and Radford have split the last five Four Continents titles.

“While we enjoyed being back and feeling the vibe of the competition, we were a little nervous,” Sui said. “So I think we could have skated better than we did.”

For Japan, Sumire Suto and Francis Boudreau-Audet were 10th and Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara were 12th.

Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu is entered in the men’s program, which begins on Friday.

The Four Continents, only open to skaters from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceania, is also serving as a test event for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

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