Figure skating: Miyahara back on top with Skate America victory


(Reuters) – Olympic hopeful Satoko Miyahara clinched an emphatic victory in the ladies’ competition at Skate America on Sunday ahead of Japanese compatriot Kaori Sakamoto.

Miyahara, who missed part of last season due to a hip injury, built on her lead from Saturday’s short program with a near flawless performance in the free skate in Lake Placid, New York.

She secured a season-best 143.31 points to finish with 214.03, ahead of Sakamoto on 210.59. American Bradie Tennell was third on 204.10 in her senior Grand Prix debut.

Miyahara’s victory, however, was not enough to clinch a place in the Grand Prix final in her home country in two weeks’ time. She will be first substitute for the Nagoya competition.

“I am very happy and satisfied with today’s performance and to get my best scores,” said the 19-year-old, who completed seven clean triples skating to ‘Madame Butterfly’.

The 2015 world silver medalist missed the world championships earlier this year due to a stress fracture in her left hip.

“After the injury, this is the first big step. The most important event, the Japanese nationals, are coming next month,” said Miyahara, who faces a big challenge to make the Japanese team for February’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Sakamoto was also satisfied with her personal best in the free skate but said she can get even better.

“In the short program I did a mistake on the spin and I have so much room to improve my performance — the jumps, the spins and the grade of execution,” she said.

In the ice dancing competition, American siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani took the title after accruing 194.25 points.

“This was the competition we wanted to have before the Grand Prix Final,” Maia said.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Tokyo; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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