Sapporo, Japan

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Russia’s Alena Kostornaia fought off the challenge of Rika Kihira of Japan in an exciting battle of triple Axels in the Ladies' Short Program at the NHK Trophy in Sapporo on Friday and posted a new highest score for the discipline. Karen Chen (USA) took a surprise third place after the first segment of the competition.

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Alena Kostornaia's personal best was also a new highest score in the Ladies' Short Program © International Skating Union

Skating to 'Departure' and 'November' by Max Richter, Kostornaia nailed a beautiful triple Axel and followed up with a triple Lutz and triple flip-triple toeloop combination. Her exquisite spins and footwork merited a level four. The ISU Junior Grand Prix Final Champion’s score of 85.04 points was not only a personal best but is also a new highest score in the Ladies' Short Program. 

“I'm very happy that I was able to do everything as planned,” the Internationaux de France Champion said.

“The triple Axel is an opportunity to get more points in the short program as quads are forbidden. But it's also a risk, because if it doesn't work you get less points than for a good double Axel,” she added.

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Home skater Rika Kihira says her triple Axel in Sapporo was one of the best she's done © International Skating Union

Kihira landed a very good triple Axel as well in her program to 'Breakfast in Baghdad' plus a triple flip-triple toe combination and a somewhat shaky triple loop. The 2019 Four Continents Champion collected all level fours for her spins and footwork to score 79.89 points.

“In today's program I was able to land all jumps, and I was able to gain high points, so I think it was a good step towards tomorrow's free program. I believe that today's triple Axel was a one of the best ones that I've done even compared to my practices here,” Kihira noted, adding that she might include a quadruple Salchow in the Free Skating. 

Chen’s routine to 'You Say' by Lauren Daigle featured a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, double Axel and triple loop as well as strong spins and steps. The 2017 US Champion achieved a personal best of 67.21 points.

“I put out a really solid performance. Definitely the first jump (combination) hasn't gone the way I hoped it would, but I'm really happy with my scores and really looking forward to compete tomorrow,” Chen said.

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Karen Chen (USA)'s routine to 'You Say' by Lauren Daigle ©International Skating Union (ISU)

Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova (RUS) finished fourth after failing to complete a legitimate jump combination (66.84 points). Mako Yamashita (JPN) placed fifth on 65.70 points and Eunsoo Lim (KOR) rounds out the top six with 65.28 points.

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Standings Ladies.

Overall, 58 skaters/couples representing 11 ISU members compete at NHK Trophy November 22-24. The top 6 qualifiers of the Grand Prix series in each discipline will proceed to the Final in Turin (ITA), December 5 to 8, 2019. Full entry lists, results, the General Announcement of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series are available on

Where to watch and follow the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating 2019

Viewers will be able to watch the Series either via their national broadcaster / channel and for countries where there are no broadcasters, the ISU will offer a live stream on the Skating ISU YouTube Channel as of season 2019/20. You will find the full list in the Where to watch news here.

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ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating 2019/20

Skate America - Las Vegas (USA) – October 18 – 20

Skate Canada International – Kelowna (CAN) – October 25 – 27

Internationaux de France – Grenoble (FRA) – Novembre 1 – 3

SHISEIDO cup of China – Chongqing (CHN) – November 8 – 10

Rostelecom Cup – Moscow (RUS) – November 15 – 17

NHK Trophy – Sapporo (JPN) – November 22 – 24

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final (Senior & Junior) – Torino (ITA) – December 5 – 8