Daisuke Takahashi, an Olympic bronze medalist and world champion in singles figure skating, began what he hopes is a run to a first Olympics in ice dance on Friday.
Takahashi, 34, and partner Kana Muramoto shook their heads in unison in acknowledgement, if not approval, after tallying 64.15 points for the rhythm dance at NHK Trophy in Osaka.
They placed second in a three-team competition that also included Japan’s top two ice dance couples from last season.
The men’s and women’s free skates and the free dance are Saturday, streaming live and on demand on Peacock Premium. A full TV and streaming schedule is here.
“It is very special to perform for a live audience,” Takahashi said, according to the International Skating Union. “Not everything was the way we hoped and it was not a 100 percent, but the rhythm dance was good. I did not realize how difficult ice dance is. So hat off to all ice dancers.”
Muramoto, a 2018 Olympian, and Takahashi performed to music from the 1994 film “The Mask” in a program they began working on in September — a short amount of prep time, especially for a couple that started training together in January. And for Takahashi, who spent nearly a decade performing at the top international level in singles.
Muramoto and Takahashi set a goal to qualify for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, which would make him the first skater to make Olympic teams in singles and ice dance as medal sports.
Their coach, Florida-based Marina Zoueva, said before NHK that they have the potential to qualify for this season’s world championships. To do that, they likely must win the Japanese Championships next month.
Also Friday, Kaori Sakamoto topped the women’s short program with 75.60 points. Sakamoto, sixth in PyeongChang, skated a clean program that included a triple flip-triple toe loop combination. She distanced Wakaba Higuchi by 5.89 points.
Yuma Kagiyama, the 17-year-old world junior silver medalist, led the men’s short with a pair of quadruple jumps and 87.26 points, despite popping an Axel.
Top Japanese singles skaters Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno, Rika Kihira and Satoko Miyahara are sitting out the competition, which is mostly Japanese skaters due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel measures.
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