The Rika Kihira Cheer Thread

Bonjour Sherry

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It's about time that the young Triple Axel Queen gets her own thread. She has been undefeated internationally this season, winning both 2018 GPF and 2019 4CC. In addition, she's outplaced Zagitova, Miyahara, Medvedeva, and Sakamoto along the way.

Rika has not only outstanding jumps with strong technique, she is making rapid strides in artistry and skating skills.

I'm going to post her long program at NHK Trophy, which IMO is THE ladies' program of the year so far: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSid1Kpi5Sg

Go Rika!
 

zigzig

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I thought she was brutally undermarked at Challenge Cup but am still thrilled for her win and for being undefeated internationally this entire season! :cheer2::cheer2::cheer2:

Also hope she brings back that 3A+3T for Worlds.
 

tripleflutz

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I think she will.
It depends on the short program. That is what has given her problems all year and cost her winning her own Nationals. If she has a short like the GPF she can make mistakes in the LP and still win as long as it is not a disaester. It is all down to the short program really.
 

giselle23

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It depends on the short program. That is what has given her problems all year and cost her winning her own Nationals. If she has a short like the GPF she can make mistakes in the LP and still win as long as it is not a disaester. It is all down to the short program really.
She has overcome a flawed short program multiple times this season. She routinely scores over 150 in her long program. I think she will win even if her short program isn’t perfect.
 

tripleflutz

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She has overcome a flawed short program multiple times this season. She routinely scores over 150 in her long program. I think she will win even if her short program isn’t perfect.
She could win with an imperfect short, but that is her only danger IMO. Remember even with a great long program at her Nationals she lost because of a big mistake in the short, and would have probably even been 3rd if Miyahara was absolutely perfect. Yes she has overcome it some competitions, but it is the only way she can be beaten. I am pretty sure a couple mistakes in the long, if she has a clean short, she will overcome.
 

Bonjour Sherry

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If Kihira lands and fully rotates her triple axel (even if she falls), she will score 70+ in the short and that's most likely enough to win the event given a clean long. A pop or underrotated/fall on triple axel makes things more open.

The only chance that MAY be beaten is if Zagitova makes zero mistakes, but that's unlikely to happen and I think the judges are not going to give Zagitova that many favors in Saitama.
 

tripleflutz

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If Kihira lands and fully rotates her triple axel (even if she falls), she will score 70+ in the short and that's most likely enough to win the event given a clean long. A pop or underrotated/fall on triple axel makes things more open.

The only chance that MAY be beaten is if Zagitova makes zero mistakes, but that's unlikely to happen and I think the judges are not going to give Zagitova that many favors in Saitama.
Yeah but she rarely skates a clean long, and that in itself is fine, as she doesnt need to in order to win the long. However if she messes up the short in the wrong way, she could lose even with a great long, as happened at Nationals.

I agree a perfect Zagitova is the one who would give Kihira the least margin for error but I certainly dont expect to see that ATM. I have a feeling we will see a meltdown from Zagitova at worlds in fact, and she might not even make top 5. I fully expect her to be the lowest placing of the 3 Russians.
 

gotoschool

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I found this 1080 HD version of Rika's freeskate at Champion Cup which is the highest quality version of this wonderful performance I could find. Rika's fine-tuned adjustment in mid-air on her triple axel combined with such a smooth save on landing is one of the best I have ever seen and it has such an intriguing twister shape. The quickness of her reflexes and agility mixed with grace and expressive power are stunning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK3o_ifAqbo

Rika's scoring has been complicated to follow. In the following comments I want to stress that I think all the skaters mentioned are very talented: Satoko, Kaori, Mai and Wakaba but I just wanted to stress trends I observed beginning with Nationals since it was mentioned several times.

At Nationals, Rika did make mistakes in the short partially due to the problems with her skates, but I found it extraordinary that Rika was deflated in the Nationals LP by almost exactly 6 points in PCS compared to both Satoko and Kaori in the Grand Prix Final LP, considering how many different PCS categories there are and despite the fact that she landed two triple axels: one with a triple toe combination. The deflation seemed even more extraordinary since Rika had a higher tech score at Nationals, won the tech score in the Nationals LP by about 4 points, and went in as Grand Prix Final Champion with 4 straight victories. Consistent with the higher PCS at the Grand Prix Final, Rika also had the highest measured speed in the final group going into her jumps at Nationals as shown on the stats on the screen. It also appeared to me that Kaori and Satoko should have received tech calls on their solo triple lutzes. I understand the value of skating cleaner overall, but in my opinion, Rika should have narrowly won. I think seniority was given some preference in scoring at Nationals especially in the LP with Kaori and Saoko both being scored more generously than Rika and Mai, respectively. Rika's underscoring in PCS at this Nationals reminded me of how Rika won the tech score in LP at Nationals last year by 7 points, but lost the PCS score in the LP by 13 points, which seemed a bit too much, though I understand she was a Junior.

A huge number of comments have been very critical of the bogus /very harsh tech calls and deflated PCS for Rika at Challenger's Cup. This is especially true since a number of skaters in recent years have gotten higher and higher PCS scores and even more lenient tech calls by skating consistently clean or fairly clean in the long and winning competitions, whereas in sharp contrast Rika has experienced a sudden and abrupt PCS deflation coupled with a couple of brutal tech calls despite her LP consistency while maintaining tech difficulty going into Worlds. Interestingly, the potential seniority principal from Nationals was carried over into the Challenger's Cup, with Wakaba receiving higher PCS than Rika despite a lot lower tech content, though Rika regained her PCS advantage in the LP at 4CC's, though the PCS scores dropped overall. I heard that Rika also mentioned that there were patches of soft ice at Challenger's Cup. There seems to be a contrast in the judging community regarding Rika's relative scores especially in PCS but now even in tech with her scores sometimes being fair (4CC and Grand Prix Final ) which I think are more reliable and hopefully will be consistent with her scoring at Worlds, and sometimes relatively deflated (Nationals and Champion Cup more so).

I hope Rika reaches her seasonal peak at Worlds with her best overall performance and that she is scored more fairly as she was at the Grand Prix Final and relatively speaking at the 4CC's. I also hope that Satoko and Kaori skate well too.
 
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Tak

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Thank you for starting a thread on Rika Kihira. Please accept my apologies in advance for longish post.

Under the RADAR
The skating fans in JPN, usually keep an eagle eye on junior/novice level skaters. I could hardly wait for Miki Ando (Senior from 04 Worlds) or Mao Asada (Ditto 07 Worlds) to come up to the senior ranks. However, Rika’s name rarely came up in 2016-18 Seasons and the JPN fan focus at junior level was firmly on Marin Honda (the actress), Kaori Sakamoto (the athlete) and Yuna Shiraiwa (the dancer). It seems that there was one real fan of her skating even during her junior years, Midori Ito. There were two exceptional performances when Rika showed her true potential.
One was 2016 JGP in Slovenia, where 14 year old Rika became the 7th Ladies skater to land the triple Axel, also nailing 8 triples without any hint of UR or wrong edge take-off. She won this event beating Marin Honda (Silver) and Alina Zagitova (Bronze).
The second one was 17-18 JPN Junior Nationals which she won with three 3Axs in both SP and FP. Even at the Senior Nationals, she won the Bronze, behind Satoko and Kaori.
She did not have stellar junior season in 2017-18, culminating with only 8th place finish at JWC after popping both of her triple Axels during the Free Program.
After turning senior in 2018-19 Season, she has notched victories in every international competition. Her only non-win (Silver) was at JPN Nationals, where her PCS for FP was dinged, IMHO, due to judges taking very harsh/dim view of her trying to cover up "step-out" by pretending to execute an Euler. Sure, Hanyu did this too without suffering too much harm, but Rika is not two-time Olympic champion, at least not yet.

Master of Damage Control
Being able to execute triple Axel is by itself an important achievement. Rika has the ability to save leaning axis jumps which reminds me of Pluschenko. But what is even more of an unexpected surprise, is her uncanny ability to maximize points in the Free Program, even when there is problem with jumps. Since the original jump layout in her FP do not have any 2Ax, and combined with her ability to add 3tlp after 3Lz or 2/3Ax, means that one missed 3Ax, is not critical. At 4CC and at ENIA Challenge Cup, she deliberately did only one 3Ax and then did 2Ax/3tlp. By repeating 3Lz and 3tlp, Rika still managed to execute highly competitive 8 triple program to win by making up 8 point deficit in 4CC. I do not remember any other skater winning ISU Championship with an invalid element (Single Axel in the SP).
I have watched in horror, many times, Oda snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by contravening Zayak rule. Another disappointment occurred at 05 Worlds, when the previous World Champion (Shizuka) nailed 3Lz in the final jump pass earning “-1.0” (0 points for invalid 3Lz and -1.0 for illegality), by forgetting to include Axel type jump in the entire program.
Rika Kihira who seems to have secure Plan B to Z during the FP, is a “redemption skater” for us long suffering JPN fans, IMHO.
 

Tak

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Rika's coach Ms. Mie Hamada made some comments about Rika's preparation routine as shown below. This reminds me of Ms. Machiko Yamada always scolding Midori Ito, during mid to late 1980s.
Start Quote:
Mie Hamada, while appreciating Rika’s improvement since moving up to seniors, told the press that she wants Rika to be more methodical in her preparations. Ms. Hamada was asked by the press, “Since the triple Axel is her first jump in the SP, is it important to have the right preparation?”
She replied, “Rika does not bomb as much as she did in juniors, since moving up to seniors and this is a minor improvement.” She then added, “She must prepare herself appropriately for the competitive skate. When a skater moves up to seniors, they usually have a set routine, so that you warm-up an hour or hour and half prior. Rika does not have a set routine yet, and seems to play by her ear. I would like her to set a warm-up routine to prime herself, by discovering the best combination of how much and how for her. The warm-up requirements change according to your skating order and waiting time. If you are the last skater in a group, then you must plan for the second warm-up. This kind of planning is where she is totally lacking, and I feel she is still a child, needs to be more seasoned in this respect. It is not what your competitors do, since if she can do her best she can count on winning, the question is how you prepare before the skate appropriately. It is not the results, but the important thing is to have a good preparation, and this is her shortcoming, in my opinion.”
End Quote
 
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gotoschool

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I admire the efforts and enjoyed the performances of the wonderful skaters I saw at Worlds. Sorry if I am repeating some of the similar comments above in places, but I wanted to include the entire pictue of the season since Grand Prix Final to show how the pattern emerged.

I didn't look closely at tech, but even then it was still suspicious. In terms of PCS scores, it is contradictory how some skaters who receive the highest tech score consistently for many competitions in a row continue to get higher and higher PCS scores, or continue to rise even when they don't, while other skaters like Rika who has now had the highest tech score in the free program for like 8 competitions in a row, which is 2/3 of the total tech score for the competition, has in stark contrast received net deflation in PCS since Grand Prix Final regardless of skating order, even after winning 6 international competitions in a row, despite having very high quality components. I first noticed the deflation of Rika's PCS at Japanese Nationals when she received almost exactly 6 points in deflation relative to both Kaori and Satoko compared to the Grand Prix Final LP, despite having the highest tech content and the highest measured speed among seniors in the final group on her entrance to a jump. The deflation relative to older Japanese skaters continued at the Challenger Cup where again Rika with much higher tech scores received a lower PCS than Wakaba. Again, I think Kaori, Satoko and Wakaba all have excellent components, though Rika's are my favorite, but I am pointing out the abrupt switch in scoring trend going into Worlds. Finally now that the precedent for deflation has been set, Rika in the Worlds LP in Japan is deflated to 4th place PCS for 1st place tech score.

Evgenia and Elizavet skated very well. However, it is baffling that it is considered completely just for Evgenia to finish ahead of Rika with 4 points less in tech overall, but that it is considered a travesty of justice by many that Rika with outstanding skating skills, transitions and artistry should finish ahead of Elizvet when Elizavet only had about 2 -2.5 points more in total tech than Rika, with Elizavet and Evgenia both scoring much lower in tech than Rika in the free that counts twice as much as the short. I think Rika should have finished second because of the high quality of her components coupled with the small gap between 2nd and 4th, because of the rapid increase in Elizavet's PCS coupled with Rika's apparently planned deflation, and because of the way skaters with the same winning consistency mixed with the highest tech score have received repeated increases in PCS except for Rika who has performed the most difficult content of all in seniors recently. I think the most unjust placement was giving Rika fourth. Though I disagree, I can at least see why someone may argue for Elizaveta finishing second. Without even considering PCS, Rika should have finished third because Rika's clean edge lutzes received less GOE than Evgenia's which seemed to be a flutz. PCS often seem to have little if anything to do with the actual elements and to often be more about placeholders, selective use of early group deflation that is vigorously applied to some and ignored for more favored others, tying peak PCS to superior tech in some and to deflation in others. Or, higher PCS are conversely tied to lower tech at select times as here in Worlds 2019, with Rika being conversely deflated.

This precedent was set at the last Worlds in Japan in 2014, where Mao received lower PCS than Carolina in both programs, despite Carolina having much lower tech content in LP with numerous mistakes as well as lower tech in her SP, though of course Evgenia in this case landed a lot more jumps in their long programs than Carolina. And even more so than Rika here, Mao's PCS scores were relatively lowballed in 2014 considering their superior quality. The manipulation is like a cycle of history that keeps repeating even more since Rika has said that Mao is her greatest inspiration.
 
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gotoschool

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Congratulations to Rika for such a fabulous SP performance with smooth fluidity in and out of her jumps combined with marvelous grace in expression, excellent speed and flexibility and a triple axel that appeared almost effortless with fine height and distance. The speed and flexibility in her I spin and Biellmann were exceptional as well. I think Rika's SP is a wonderful compliment to the contrasting mood in her long program which provides variety. I also noticed that Rika's more liberal use of tape to secure her boots around her ankles really paid off, since I couldn't see any in her Worlds SP. I find it a fascinating case of synchronicity that Mao, who Rika has called such a huge inspiration, also performed a marvelous SP to Clair de Lune including a triple axel almost 10 years ago at the World Team Trophy also in Japan. I feel fortunate to have seen two of my favorite SP's skated to the same music with different styles. I hope Rika skates just as great in the LP.

Here is a fantastic 1080 copy of Rika's performance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_DEETwc91c
 
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alchemy void

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Love the new SP. She still needs to get more comfortable with it and sell a bit more, but I'm betting it will by GPF/Nationals. Big step up from last years' SP.
 

nimi

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Rika did an interview about her new programs and her plans for this and next seasons, and some kind soul translated it in English:

There are some interesting tidbits about the big jumps, e.g.:
R: This is something I realized recently, but, regarding 3A, the percentage of landing it is higher with uptempo songs. At the beginning, I thought “I can’t do it, it’s too pressing”, but on the contrary in the FP with a slow tempo song, more or less I experienced more difficulties. Before I jump, the longer I hold the set up, I lose control and it’s hard to maintain the axis. Maybe my timing is a bit fast, that’s why I think faster tempo suits me more.
Q: About wanting to get into your “completed form” in the remaining two seasons, Are you going for the challenge of inserting 4T in next season?

R: I won’t have any leeway in my mind if I could not jump two type of quads. The elements of the program will be more flexible and there will be more range of choices, like jumping one type of quad 2 times. I want to complete 4T too, but really I’m not too good at Toeloop, so looks like it would take some time. First I’d like to attempt it while re-evaluating my 3T.

Q: What’s the difficulty of the 4T?

R: I can do the rotations, but the axis is off. I think if the axis is straight it can be executed well. There is no other way but to maintain the axis and training to get a higher rate of success.

She also talks honestly about the challenges of "staying completely focused", e.g.:
Q: You performed at FaOI with Yuzuru Hanyu. Did you receive any influence from him?

R: There is the collaboration with ToshI. While ToshI was adjusting the music Hanyu-san was standing in the rink and doing some image-building. I can’t perform on the actual day without checking practice numerous times. But Hanyu-san can build the image of the program inside his head; I want to learn that aspect gradually. I also want to learn from his ability to focus.

Q: Well then, you also have the ability to focus.

R: My problem lies with my sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep I lack the power to concentrate. It’s like, by lacking sleep even the content of my program changes. I’m influenced by the quality of my sleep. The more I think of “I can’t fail” “I definitely want to jump it”, I can’t sleep well. I must do something for it. I think it would be nice if I can overcome this somehow.
 

gotoschool

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What a stunning and Fabulous SP from Rika! Fantastic triple axel and 3 more lovely triples especially the tano triple loop with the transitioning single loop tanos on entry. She also had sharp and smooth edges and excellent speed with intricate transitions and intriguing offbeat movements and more genuine dancing than I have ever seen her do that fit the mood and rhythm of the unusual music wonderfully. I wish Rika the best in the freeskate. Please do your best to take care of your ankle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XwwJCAMJpc
 
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kittyjake5

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What a stunning and Fabulous SP from Rika! Fantastic triple axel and 3 more lovely triples especially the tano triple loop with the transitioning single loop tanos on entry. She also had sharp and smooth edges and excellent speed with intricate transitions and intriguing offbeat movements and more genuine dancing than I have ever seen her do that fit the mood and rhythm of the unusual music wonderfully. I wish Rika the best in the freeskate. Please do your best to take care of your ankle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u45w0RYsarM
Agree with your whole post. She was amazing. Unfortunately the link you provided to her SP has been taken down.
 

gotoschool

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Really impressed with Rika's performances this season, her consistency with the triple axel, and the way that she is challenging herself to tackle and succeed in expressing herself so beautifully and powerfully with intricate choreography that is developing her musicality, artistic expression and skating skills and the way that the crowd reacted so positively to every one of her Grand Prix performances. It was great to see her get the biggest response from the audience for her freeskate at home in the NHK especially. I have expressed my view in detail about the scores in other places but it is safe to say among the group of skaters not on the Eteri team, which has skated very well too, she has had the best results this season, and her not winning one or more of the events in the Grand Prix series has a lot to do with her being held to a higher standard in scoring compared to those finishing ahead of her, though again Sasha and Alena skated very well and should be commended for their performances. My issue is with the judging. I believe she would have won the NHK if scored fairly, but I haven't looked at Skate Canada as carefully, though in each case tech calls, step sequences, GOE and PCS "irregularities" made a lot of difference, especially when comparing scores between the French Grand Prix and the NHK. The likely impetus for this change was the Russian Federation memo written to the ISU requesting what it referred to as "inconsistencies" in tech calls to be addressed, though it was already receiving generous scoring in my opinion. Anyway, I wish Rika the best in the Grand Prix Final and hope she is able to give great performances.
 
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AngieNikodinovLove

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^^^^^ IM IN LOVE with her short program, so mature and elegant if you ask me. Her free skate though is five steps backwards

I think even commentators, maybe Tanith Belbin mentioned how it doesn't suit her

I hope so much she medals at the final. Last year she won it, this year I'm hoping for bronze
 

essence_of_soy

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^^^^^ IM IN LOVE with her short program, so mature and elegant if you ask me. Her free skate though is five steps backwards

I think even commentators, maybe Tanith Belbin mentioned how it doesn't suit her

I hope so much she medals at the final. Last year she won it, this year I'm hoping for bronze
The Russian girls are very tough. But since this is skating, anything could happen.
 

Fozzie Bear

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^^^^^ IM IN LOVE with her short program, so mature and elegant if you ask me. Her free skate though is five steps backwards

I think even commentators, maybe Tanith Belbin mentioned how it doesn't suit her

I hope so much she medals at the final. Last year she won it, this year I'm hoping for bronze
ITA. The short program really stands out, and I love the footwork sequence. There's an interesting concept behind the free program, but unfortunately it doesn't go anywhere, which isn't usually the case with Tom Dickson's programs. Last year's was so exciting, and the whole thing built up to final pose well.
 
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