Kao Miura took advantage of the withdrawal of Japanese countryman Yuma Kagiyama, along with an uncharacteristic fall by American rival Ilia Malinin, to take the lead after the short program at Skate America on Friday night.
The 17-year-old Miura landed a big opening quad salchow-triple toe loop along with a triple axel and a quad toe loop to score a personal-best 94.96 points at the Tenley E. Albright Performance Center near Boston. That gave Miura a slim lead over South Korea’s Cha Junhwan, who moonwalked through a Michael Jackson mashup to a score of 94.44 points.
“I kind of am telling myself, `Why am I sitting here?’ Miura said afterward. “And it’s because I did everything I should have done on the ice. I just tried to be confident on the ice and that worked for me.”
Daniel Grassl of Italy was third with 88.43 points while Malinin, the 17-year-old who made history by landing the first quad axel in competition, was fourth after a fall on his quad toe loop left him with 86.06 points.
“I think at the very beginning I felt very confident going into it. I was very in the moment,” said Malinin, the junior world champion, who was making his senior Grand Prix debut. “After that little fall, it threw me off a little bit. I had to brush it off and just continue with the rest of the program.”
In the pairs competition, the American duo of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier scored 75.19 points in their short program to take the lead over Canada’s Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps, who had 73.05 points.
Malinin became the favorite at Skate America when Kagiyama, the Olympic silver medalist, withdrew from the opening Grand Prix event because of an injury. But it was Miura, the 17-year-old Japanese junior champion, who took the lead going into the free skate thanks to a technical score that was more than five points higher than anyone else.
It was a full eight points more than Malinin, who just might need to land his quad axel Saturday night to have a chance.
“It really depends how I feel personally,” Malinin said of attempting the 4 1/2-rotation jump.
Knierim and Frazier, who helped the U.S. win team silver at the Beijing Olympics, were heavy favorites at Skate America after taking advantage of the absence of the powerful Russian teams to win their first world title earlier this year.
Performing to “Separate Ways” by the American rock band Journey, Knierim and Frazier dazzled a sellout crowd with their opening triple twist. Frazier two-footed the landing on their side-by-side triple toe loop, but the 2021 champions from Skate America came back with a beautiful throw triple flip to earn a solid component score.
“I never started my season off at a Grand Prix before,” Frazier said. “There was a lot of positivity out there tonight. It was a little bit of a fight tonight, but it was our starting base.”
Knierim and Frazier were expected to show out on the Grand Prix stage, though. The surprise came from Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps, whose performance to “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla put them solidly in second place.
The winners of the lower-level Nebelhorn Trophy earlier this year were solid from their opening triple twist, through their side-by-side triple toe and into their throw triple loop to keep within range of the gold medal.
Letizia Roscher and Luis Schuster of Germany were well behind in third with 54.87 points.
“We are very pleased with our performance, happy to be here,” said Stellato-Dudek, who calls Chicago home and previously skated for the U.S. “It’s kind of a homecoming for me. It’s like my wedding. It’s like I know everybody.”
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