Daisuke Takahashi has stressed to his coach that he didn’t envision switching to ice dance would be so difficult.
Takahashi, an Olympic bronze medalist and world champion in singles, and partner Kana Muramoto learned over the last two days just how much work is ahead in competition to unseat Japan’s top couple and qualify for a world championships or Olympics.
Muramaoto, a 2018 Olympian, and Takahashi placed third out of three couples at NHK Trophy, their debut event and the first-ever dance competition for the 34-year-old Takahashi. He switched to dance less than a year ago.
Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto, Japan’s two-time reigning national champions, won with 179.05 points — 21 more points than Rikako Fukase and Eichu Cho and Muramoto and Takahashi.
Full NHK Trophy results are here. NBC airs highlights on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.
Muramoto and Takahashi dropped from second in the rhythm dance after Takahashi stumbled and put his hands on the ice during twizzles in Saturday’s free dance.
“I made a mistake, and I hate that,” Takahashi said, according to the International Skating Union. “Even in practice I don’t make such a big mistake on the twizzle and other mistakes in the transitions. So I guess that is what the competition means.”
It will take a massive change over the next month for Muramoto and Takahashi to qualify for March’s world championships, which would likely require winning the national title.
Takahashi’s ultimate goal — to become the first skater to make Olympic teams in singles and dance as medal sports — in 2022 remains attainable as the door is open. Japan didn’t have a couple in the top 50 in the world last season.
“We are happy to have made our debut,” said Muramoto, who matched Japan’s best-ever Olympic dance finish of 15th with the late Chris Reed in PyeongChang. “We were calm but made mistakes we never do, so there are many things to work on, but I feel that we can do better in the next competition. We are a team that has just started. We are all excited, and coaches are telling us that we will bring a new breeze into this world so we are just excited to have started.”
Earlier, Kaori Sakamoto landed seven triple jumps and ran away with the women’s title by 28.53 points. Sakamoto, sixth at the PyeongChang Olympics, totaled 229.51.
Wakaba Higuchi, the 2018 World silver medalist, became the 13th woman to land a triple Axel in international competition, according to Jackie Wong. She placed second against a field that lacked Japan’s other top women in recent seasons, Rika Kihira and Satoko Miyahara.
Yuma Kagiyama, the 17-year-old world junior silver medalist, landed five quadruple jumps between two programs to win the men’s title. Kagiyama, the 2019 Japanese senior bronze medalist, totaled 275.87 points to win by 49.25 over a field that lacked Olympic gold and silver medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno.
NHK Trophy, which typically gathers top skaters from around the globe, was a mostly domestic event due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel measures. It was the last competition of the fall Grand Prix Series.
The next major competitions are national championships in late December (Japan, Russia) and January (U.S.).
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