U.S. champion Gracie Gold won the biggest international title of her career at NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan, on Saturday, clinching her first Grand Prix Final berth.
Gold, who finished fourth at the Olympics and fifth at March’s World Championships, totaled 191.16 points to win by 4.76 over Russian Alena Leonova. Gold landed four triple jumps in her free skate and fell on a triple Salchow but improved on her lead after the short program due in part to Leonova’s errors.
“It wasn’t my best performance, but I skated well enough to win the competition, which was one of my goals,” Gold said in a Japanese TV interview, according to the Japan News. “But I know that I can do much better, and everyone should look for better performances later on in the season.”
Gold joined Olympic teammate Ashley Wagner and four Russians, including World silver medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya, to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona in two weeks. Four Russians qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the second straight year.
The Grand Prix Final is the top annual international competition outside the World Championships, made up of the best six skaters per discipline over the Grand Prix series that concluded with NHK Trophy.
Gold and Wagner were the only U.S. women to make the podium in the Grand Prix series this year, and both did so in each of their two competitions. They are currently co-favorites going into the U.S. Championships in January, where three women will earn berths for the World Championships in March.
On Saturday, Gold became the first U.S. woman other than Wagner to win a Grand Prix series event since 2011.
Wagner joined Michelle Kwan as the only U.S. women to make three straight Grand Prix Finals.
NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air NHK Trophy coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.
NHK Trophy women’s results
1. Gracie Gold (USA) — 191.16
2. Alena Leonova (RUS) — 186.4
3. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 179.02
8. Polina Edmunds (USA) — 161.79
9. Christina Gao (USA) — 147.51
Leaders in Grand Prix season
1. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 203.92 (Trophee Bompard)
2. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 196.6 (Cup of China)
3. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 195.47 (Skate America)
4. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 191.81 (Skate Canada)
5. Gracie Gold (USA) — 191.16 (NHK Trophy)
6. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 189.62 (Skate America)
7. Alena Leonova (RUS) — 186.4 (NHK Trophy)
8. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 186 (Skate Canada)
9. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) — 185.18 (Trophee Bompard)
10. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 181.75 (Skate Canada)
Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova is out with a torn ankle ligament.
U.S. leaders in Grand Prix season
1. Gracie Gold — 191.16 (NHK Trophy)
2. Ashley Wagner — 186 (Skate Canada)
3. Gracie Gold — 179.38 (Skate America)
4. Ashley Wagner — 177.74 (Trophee Bompard)
5. Samantha Cesario — 174.58 (Skate America)
6. Courtney Hicks — 174.51 (Skate Canada)
7. Courtney Hicks — 172.58 (Trophee Bompard)
8. Mirai Nagasu — 165.88 (Rostelecom Cup)
9. Polina Edmunds — 161.79 (NHK Trophy)
10. Samantha Cesario — 161.7 (Trophee Bompard)
Grand Prix Final qualifiers
1. Yelena Radionova (RUS)
2. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)
3. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
4. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS)
5. Gracie Gold (USA)
6. Ashley Wagner (USA)