Hiroshima, Japan

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Russia’s Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert cruised to the gold at the NHK Trophy in the Pairs Free Skating on Saturday, taking their second consecutive victory on the circuit. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin of China earned the silver medal and the bronze went to Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Chris Knierim (USA). The gold and silver medalists have assured themselves of a spot in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final.

GP NHK Natalia Zabiiako Alexander Enbert(RUS)2018©International Skating Union(ISU) 1060083622

Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert (RUS)2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Zabiiako/Enbert’s performance to “Toi et Moi” by Igor Krutoi featured a triple twist, triple toe double toe-double loop combination, throw triple flip and loop plus difficult lifts. Only the side-by-side triple Salchow was somewhat wobbly. The European bronze medalists achieved a season’s best with 140.66 points, to give them a total of 214.14.

“It was almost a 100 percent performance for today, also emotionally. So we have only positive emotions right now,” Zabiiako said.

Her partner, Enbert, added: “It is always hard to make the Grand Prix Final, it’s a battle and it is nice to see the result of our work. It’s always interesting to skate there and we hope to skate as well or even better there (in the Final).”  

GP NHK  Cheng Peng Yang Jin(CHN)2018©International Skating Union(ISU)  1060083600

Cheng Peng/Yang Jin (CHN)2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Skating to “La Vie en Rose”, Peng/Jin produced a triple toe-double toe combination, triple twist, throw triple loop and Salchow. The Skate Canada silver medalists collected a level four for four elements and scored a season’s best 136.58 points, for a total score of 207.24.

“We are pleased with our performance today, we did what we do in training,” Peng said.

“Compared to Skate Canada there was some progress. We got our personal best score. Technically we didn’t have many problems, only the last lift wasn’t perfect,” Jin added.

GP NHK Alexa Scimeca Knierim Chris Knierim(USA)2018©International Skating Union(ISU)  1060083524

Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Chris Knierim (USA)2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Scimeca Knierim/Knierim’s routine to “Wicked Game” included excellent throws as well as difficult lifts, but they struggled with the side-by-side jumps. The US Champions nevertheless also managed a season's best, 125.74, to accumulate 190.49 points and move up from fourth to third place.

“We’re very happy with our performance today. We put out a much stronger skate than we did two weeks ago at Skate America, so we’re on the right track,” Knierim said.

“Even in the short program, we were happy with the improvements that we made over Skate America. All in all we’ve lots of work left to do, there’s always something we can improve on, but we’re happy with where we are now.”

GP JPN Medallists Pairs

Pairs medallists Peng/Jin (CHN, silver), Zabiiako/Enbert (RUS, gold) and Scimeca Knierim/Knierim (USA, bronze) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) slipped from third to fourth after errors on the side-by-side jumps and the throw triple loop, finishing with a total of 189.66 points. The 2018 Four Continents Champions Tarah Kayne/Danny O’Shea (USA) remained in fifth place with 164.16 points.

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