Rika Kihira (Japanese: 紀平 梨花; born 21 July 2002) is a Japanese figure skater. She is a two-time Four Continents champion (2019, 2020) the 2018 Grand Prix Final champion, the 2018 Internationaux de France champion, the 2018 NHK Trophy champion, a two-time International Challenge Cup champion, the 2019 Japanese national champion, and the 2018 Japanese national silver medalist.
Kihira at the 2019 Four Continents
|Native name||紀平 梨花|
|Born||21 July 2002|
|Home town||Nishinomiya, Japan|
|Height||1.54 m (5 ft 1 in)|
|Coach||Mie Hamada |
|Choreographer||David Wilson |
|Skating club||Kansai University Kaisers FSC|
|Training locations||Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan |
|World standing||1 (as of February 8, 2020) (2019-20)|
|Season's bests||3 (As of February 19, 2020) (2019-20)|
|ISU personal best scores|
2018–19 Grand Prix Final
2019 World Team Trophy
2018 NHK Trophy
Kihira is one of eleven women to have landed the triple Axel jump in an International Skating Union competition, the first ever woman to land a triple Axel-triple Toeloop combination, the first woman to land eight clean triples in a free skate,  and the second woman to land four clean triples in the short program (the maximum under the Zayak rule).
As at 20 April 2020, Kihira is currently the highest ranked ladies figure skater in the world by the International Skating Union.
Kihira began learning to skate in 2007. In the 2015–16 season, she competed on the advanced novice level, winning gold at the Triglav Trophy. She was invited to skate in the gala at the 2015 NHK Trophy as the Japanese national novice champion in the same season.
According to Hamada, Rika didn't have any triple jumps when she first came to her, but she still noticed Rika's high potential in her upper body strength (from gymnastics) and speed while running. Hamada recalled that she was convinced from the first day she saw Rika skate that she could "master a triple Axel." The first thing Hamada did was teach Rika how to control her axis while jumping in order to prepare her for triple jumps.
2016–17 season: International junior debutEdit
Kihira made her Junior Grand Prix (JGP) debut in the 2016–17 season. In early September, she won the silver medal in Ostrava, Czech Republic, with a total score 0.08 less than Anastasiia Gubanova of Russia. Later that month, she outscored World junior champion Marin Honda by 15.49 points for the gold in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Kihira landed a triple Axel jump in the free skate. She qualified to the 2016–17 JGP Final in Marseille, France, where she finished fourth.
Kihira was assigned JGP events in Latvia and Italy. In her first event at JGP Riga, Kihira placed sixth in the short program after stepping out of her triple flip and falling on her triple Lutz. She finished second overall behind Daria Panenkova after winning the free skate.
In her next event at JGP Egna, she won the bronze medal behind Sofia Samodurova and Alena Kostornaia after placing second in the short program and third in the free skate. The results qualified her for her second JGP Final in Nagoya, Japan over Mako Yamashita through a tie breaker.
At the 2017 JGP Final, she became the first ever woman to land a triple Axel-triple jump combination in an international competition organized by the International Skating Union. She was the only non-Russian competitor and finished fourth overall, following a popped Axel and an underrotation on another jump.
On the senior level, Kihira won the bronze medal at Japanese Nationals, after placing fifth in the short program and second in the free skate. As she was age-ineligible to compete as a senior, she was sent to the 2018 World Junior Championships, where she placed eighth.
2018–19 season: Grand Prix Final & Four Continents goldEdit
Making her senior debut, Kihira began the season with a gold medal at the 2018 Ondrej Nepela Trophy, an ISU Challenger Series event. Kihira placed first in the short program, despite falling on her triple Axel. She also placed first in the long program with eight fully rotated triple jumps, including a triple Axel-triple toe loop and a solo triple Axel, and set a free skate world record of 147.37 points.
For her senior Grand Prix debut, Kihira was originally assigned only one event. At 2018 NHK Trophy, Kihira was fifth in the short program after underrotating and falling on her triple Axel again. She placed first in the free skate with a solo triple Axel, a triple Axel-triple toe loop, and eight triple jumps in total. She won the gold medal overall. In doing so, she finished ahead of compatriot and reigning Japanese national champion Satoko Miyahara and 2015 World Champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who also performed a triple Axel in her free program. She admitted afterward: "When I finished my short program, I didn’t think I would be up here today. The short program motivated me to be good today."
Due to her results at the 2018 NHK Trophy, Rika was assigned another Grand Prix event. At the Internationaux de France, Kihira singled the triple Axel in the short program, placing third. In the free skate she underrotated her sole triple axel attempt, but still placed first and captured her second Grand Prix gold medal. Kihira stated that she was glad to have won, but was unsatisfied with her performance.
The 2018–19 Grand Prix Final was regarded by many commentators as a contest between Kihira and reigning Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, who had been forced to withdraw from the Ondrej Nepela Trophy earlier due to visa issues. Kihira won the short program with a world record score of 82.51, landing the triple Axel in the short program for the first time that season. She then placed first in the free skate with a score of 150.61 and won the gold medal, despite downgrading and falling on her opening triple axel.
Kihira entered the 2018 Japanese Championships as a favourite to take the national title, but she struggled with boot problems in the competition, and made multiple errors in the short program that left her in fifth place going into the free skate. She placed first in the free skate, her only mistake being a downgraded Euler in her three-jump combination. However, she won the silver medal overall in front of training mate and four-time national champion Satoko Miyahara. The gold medal went to Kaori Sakamoto.
At the 2019 Four Continents Championships, Kihira initially "hesitated" at including the triple Axel in the short program, but chose to do so, and singled it. She placed fifth in the short. In the free program, Kihira landed one triple Axel and substituted a double Axel-triple toe loop combination for the second, winning both the free program and the overall championship decisively. She observed: "During this season, I learned how to keep my concentration in my free skating no matter what happens in my short program."
Kihira was one of three Japanese ladies assigned to the 2019 World Championships, held in Saitama, and based on her season up until that point was widely considered the favourite to win the title. In the short program, she once again singled her triple Axel attempt, leaving her in seventh place and outside of the final group of six skaters. She came second in the free skate, earning a silver small medal, landing a clean triple Axel-triple toe loop and falling on her second triple axel. In fourth overall, she was 0.31 points behind bronze medalist Evgenia Medvedeva and 1.27 points behind silver medalist Elizabet Tursynbaeva. It was the only podium Kihira missed in the season, and the only international competition she did not win.
Kihira concluded the season as part of Team Japan at the 2019 World Team Trophy. She landed the triple axel in the short program for only the second time that season, setting another world record of 83.97. However, Kihira fell twice in the free, once on her opening triple Axel, and the other on her triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, placing fifth. Team Japan won the silver medal overall.
2019–20 season: First national title, second Four Continents goldEdit
Kihira began her season at 2019 CS Autumn Classic International where she ranked both first in the short program and in the free, finishing in first place overall, and landing all three of her planned triple Axels, albeit with once called as underrotated. Kihira stated that she hoped to introduce a quad Salchow into competition later in the season, but had declined to attempt it there as she felt her triple Axel was more stable. While she landed one triple Lutz in her free skate at this event, a persistent ankle problem led her to not attempt any further triple Lutz jumps in competition during the first half of the season.
Her next competition was Skate Canada where she placed first after a clean short program scoring 81.35. In the free skate Kihira stepped out of her first triple Axel but after that had a clean skate. She has earned 148.98 points in the free skate to score 230.33 for both programs and finish second overall behind Alexandra Trusova who landed three quad jumps in her free skate. Kihira stated afterward that Trusova's performance motivated her to work to increase her scoring potential going forward. Competing at the 2019 NHK Trophy, Kihira landed her Axel and combination cleanly but had a poor landing on her triple loop, placing second behind Alena Kostornaia, who also performed a triple Axel and broke Kihira's short program world record. Second in the free skate as well, she won a second silver medal and qualified to the Grand Prix Final. Kihira stated afterward that her ankle continued to be a problem after three months, with the possibility that it might be a tendon issue that would require time away from competition to resolve.
Competing at the Grand Prix Final, Kihira put her foot down on her triple Axel and fell on her jump combination, consequently placing sixth of the sixth skaters in the segment, almost fifteen points behind Kostornaia in first place. Kihira expressed regret over her performance, attributing much of it to discomfort with skating in the evening rather than the morning. In the free skate, Kihira attempted the quad Salchow in competition for the first time, achieving the rotation but falling. She placed fourth in that segment, and rose to fourth place overall. Speaking afterward, Kihira said "as for the quads, a lot of girls are doing different quads now and I know I also need to work harder. Of course I want to first get my quad Salchow consistent, and then maybe I will try quad toe."
Entering the 2019–20 Japanese Championships as the favourite for the title, Kihira placed first in the short program despite stepping out of her triple Axel and losing levels on one of her spins. She won the free skate commandingly, making only a single error when she underrotated the triple toe loop in her opening jump combination, and took the Japanese national title for the first time ahead of Wakaba Higuchi and Tomoe Kawabata. She indicated that she hoped to reintroduce the triple Lutz into competition for the 2020 World Championships.
In February, Kihira competed at the 2020 Four Continents Championships with countrywomen Higuchi and Kaori Sakamoto. In the short program, she placed first ahead of Bradie Tennell of the United States and training mate You Young of South Korea. She included the triple Lutz for the first time since the Autumn Classic. In the free skate, she popped her first triple axel attempt to a single, the first time she had done so during that season, but performed the rest of the program cleanly and improvised an additional triple-triple combination. She therefore still performed eight triple jumps and for the first time in international competition landed twelve clean triple jumps in one competition. She won the free skate and the overall competition with a new season's best combined total (232.34) ahead of You and Tennell. She became the first singles skater, male or female, to win consecutive Four Continents titles.
Kihira was scheduled to compete at the 2020 World Championships in Montreal, but these were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In June, Kihira announced that she would add Brian Orser, the coach of Olympic champions Kim Yuna and Yuzuru Hanyu, to her coaching team, and begin training at the Toronto Cricket, Skating & Curling Club as soon as travel restrictions allowed. The persistence of travel restrictions through July required her to abandon plans to have programs choreographed by Lori Nichol in Toronto. She subsequently spent time at Stephane Lambiel's training camp in Switzerland.
Kihira is regarded by analysts to be a complete skater, praised for both her technical and artistic skills. "You can talk about the triple axel all you want, but there is a little bit of everything there," remarked Kurt Browning. Tara Lipinski also noted her all-around ability: "We focus so much on her jumps, which are incredible. But what’s interesting to me is she’s mature beyond her years. She has such a solid base and foundation when it comes to her skating skills and ice coverage and extension." 
Kihira is known for her difficult jump layouts. She is the first female skater to land eight fully rotated triples in a program. She has landed triple Axels and triple Axel-triple toe loops in international competition, being one of two ladies who have achieved the latter (the second being Alysa Liu). She was the youngest lady to land the triple Axel in an ISU-sanctioned competition, until Liu. She has also executed a triple Axel-triple toe loop-double toe loop in domestic competition. She is training the quad toe loop and quad Salchow. She first attempted the quad Salchow in competition at the 2019–20 Grand Prix Final during her free skate, fully rotating but falling on the jump.
All of Kihira's jumps notably have correct technique. Her toe jumps (toe loop, flip, and Lutz) have the proper toepick assist. Her Lutz has the correct takeoff edge, which is uncommon among the top ladies skaters. Her coach Mie Hamada recalled that Kihira used to have an outside edge on her flip, a flaw that she was able to fix, which suggests that she is a natural Lutz jumper. Kihira is also one of three ladies who are ranked in the top ten skaters within the past ten years to never receive an edge call.
In addition to her clean technique, Kihira's jumps are praised for their execution: complex transitions, good flow, considerable distance, effortlessness, and short set up.
As a junior, Kihira used to have problems with under-rotating her jumps. However, she was able to mostly get her under-rotations under control by her senior debut.
|Season||Short program||Free skating||Exhibition|
International Angel of Peace:
Records and achievementsEdit
- Set the ladies' technical score of 87.17 points in the free skate, currently held by Alexandra Trusova.
- Set the ladies' technical score of 48.17 points in the short program, currently held by Alena Kostornaia.
- Set the ladies' record of the new +5 / -5 GOE (Grade of Execution) system for the free program with a score of 147.37 points at the 2018 CS Ondrej Nepela Trophy, previously held by Alexandra Trusova (Russia).
- First lady to land a triple Axel + triple toe loop at the 2017–18 Junior Grand Prix Final.
- The youngest lady to land a triple Axel at the 2016 JGP Slovenia (14 years 54 days).
- Second lady to land two triple axel jumps in the same program (2018 CS Ondrej Nepela Trophy) behind Mao Asada.
- First lady to land 8 (fully rotated) triple jumps in the free skate (3A, 3Lz+3T, 3Lo, 2A+3T, 3F+2T+2Lo, 3S, 3Lz) at the 2016 JGP Slovenia.
- Second junior lady to land a triple axel behind Mao Asada.
- First lady to win back-to-back the Four Continents Championships.
World record scoresEdit
Kihira has set two world record scores under the new +5 / -5 GOE (Grade of Execution) system.
|Senior ladies' short program records|
|11 April 2019||83.97||2019 World Team Trophy||Record was broken by Alena Kostornaia of Russia at the 2019 NHK Trophy.|
|6 December 2018||82.51||2018–19 Grand Prix Final|
|Senior ladies' free skating records|
|22 September 2018||147.37||2018 CS Ondrej Nepela Trophy||Record was broken by Alina Zagitova of Russia at the 2018 CS Nebelhorn Trophy.|
|GP Skate Canada||2nd|
|GP NHK Trophy||1st||2nd|
|CS Autumn Classic||1st|
|CS Ondrej Nepela||1st|
|Int. Challenge Cup||1st||1st|
|JGP Czech Republic||2nd|
|Japanese Junior Champ.||11th||11th||1st|
|Japan Open||2nd T |
|World Team Trophy||2nd T
| TBD = Assigned; C = Event cancelled; WD = Withdrew , A = Novice A|
T = Team result; P = Personal result. Medals awarded for team result only.
Small medals for short and free programs awarded only at ISU Championships. Current ISU world best highlighted in bold and italic. Previous ISU world bests highlighted in bold. Personal best highlighted in bold. At team events, medals awarded for team results only.
|16–22 March 2020||2020 World Championships||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|20–23 February 2020||2020 Challenge Cup||1
|4–9 February 2020||2020 Four Continents Championships||1
|18–22 December 2019||2019–20 Japan Championships||1
|5–8 December 2019||2019–20 Grand Prix Final||6
|22–24 November 2019||2019 NHK Trophy||2
|25–27 October 2019||2019 Skate Canada International||1
|5 October 2019||2019 Japan Open||–||3
|12–14 September 2019||2019 Autumn Classic International||1
|11–14 April 2019||2019 World Team Trophy||1
|18–24 March 2019||2019 World Championships||7
|21–24 February 2019||2019 Challenge Cup||2
|7–10 February 2019||2019 Four Continents Championships||5
|20–24 December 2018||2018–19 Japan Championships||5
|6–9 December 2018||2018–19 Grand Prix Final||1
|23–25 November 2018||2018 Internationaux de France||2
|9–11 November 2018||2018 NHK Trophy||5
|19–22 September 2018||2018 CS Ondrej Nepela Trophy||1
|5–11 March 2018||2018 World Junior Championships||Junior||4
|21–24 December 2017||2017–18 Japan Championships||Senior||5
|7–10 December 2017||2017−18 JGP Final||Junior||4
|24–26 November 2017||2017–18 Japan Junior Championships||Junior||6
|11–14 October 2017||2017 JGP Italy||Junior||2
|6–9 September 2017||2017 JGP Latvia||Junior||6
|2–5 August 2017||2017 Asian Open Trophy||Junior||1
|8–11 December 2016||2016−17 JGP Final||Junior||5
|18–20 November 2016||2016–17 Japan Junior Championships||Junior||4
|21–25 September 2016||2016 JGP Slovenia||Junior||2
|31 August – 3 September 2016||2016 JGP Czech Republic||Junior||1
- Personal best highlighted in bold.
- "ISU Season's World Ranking 2019/2020. Ladies". isu.org. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
- "Seasons Best Scores". www.isuresults.com. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
- "Seasons Best Scores". www.isuresults.com. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
- "Seasons Best Scores". www.isuresults.com. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
- "ISU 2018 NHK Trophy Event Protocol pdf" (PDF).
- "ISU JGP Ljubljana 2016". www.isuresults.com. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
- "ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final 2018". www.isuresults.com. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
- "Rika KIHIRA: 2016/2017". International Skating Union. Archived from the original on 24 September 2016.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
- "ISU JGP Ljubljana 2016 Junior Ladies Free Skating: Judges Details Per Skater" (PDF). International Skating Union. 24 September 2016.
- "Asian Figure Skating Trophy 2016 Junior Ladies Free Skating: Judges Details Per Skater" (PDF). Hong Kong Skating Union. 5 August 2017.
- "ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating 2017/2018 Junior Ladies Final Results". International Skating Union. 14 October 2017.
- Slater, Paula (9 December 2017). "Alexandra Trusova leads Russian sweep at Junior Grand Prix Final". Golden Skate.
- Gallagher, Jack (26 November 2017). "Rika Kihira roars back to win Japan Junior Championship with two triple axels". The Japan Times.
- Slater, Paula (24 December 2017). "Miyahara captures fourth national title in Tokyo". Golden Skate.
- Mammoser, Ted (10 November 2018). "Kihira captures gold at NHK Trophy after two triple Axels". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (24 November 2018). "Japan's Kihira wins second Grand Prix gold in Grenoble". Golden Skate.
- Okada, Noriko (28 November 2018). "Skating's rising star Kihira takes on Zagitova". NHK World.
- Flett, Ted (9 December 2018). "Japan's Rika Kihira reigns in Vancouver". Golden Skate.
- "Sakamoto shakes it up at Japanese Nationals; win's first title". Golden Skate. 23 December 2018.
- Slater, Paula (7 February 2019). "Bradie Tennell takes slight lead in Anaheim". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (9 February 2019). "Kihira captures gold in Anaheim in debut at Four Continents". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (20 March 2019). "Zagitova after Worlds short program: 'It was a good performance'". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (22 March 2019). "Zagitova pounces on World gold in Saitama". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (13 April 2019). "Team USA wins fourth World Team Trophy gold". Golden Skate.
- Jiwani, Rory (13 September 2019). "RIKA KIHIRA TAKES AUTUMN CLASSIC INTERNATIONAL VICTORY". Olympic Channel.
- "紀平梨花はいかにロシア勢と戦うのか？「一日でも休むと危ない」胸に抱く切実な危機感" [How does Kihira Rika fight against Russians? "It is dangerous to rest even a day"] (in Japanese). Yahoo Japan.
- Slater, Paula (26 October 2019). "Japan's Rika Kihira grabs leat at 2019 Skate Canada". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (27 October 2019). "Russia's Trusova snags gold in Grand Prix debut at 2019 Skate Canada". Golden Skate.
- Griffiths, Rachel (26 October 2019). "Alexandra Trusova lands three quadruple jumps to win Skate Canada". Olympic Channel.
- Slater, Paula (22 November 2019). "Kostornaia sets new record at 2019 NHK Trophy". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (23 November 2019). "Kostornaia wins second consecutive Grand Prix gold in Sapporo". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (6 December 2019). "Kostornaia leads Russian sweep after Ladies Short Program in Torino". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (8 December 2019). "Alena Kostornaia leads Russian sweep for Ladies' gold in Torino". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (19 December 2019). "Rika Kihira leads ladies at Japanese Nationals". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (21 December 2019). "Rika Kihira claims first Japanese National title". Golden Skate.
- Gallagher, Jack (21 December 2019). "Rika Kihira displays confidence, elegance en route to first senior national title". Golden Skate.
- Feb 6, A. P.; ET, 2020 at 8:46a (6 February 2020). "Defending champ Rika Kihira leads at Four Continents". FOX Sports. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
- Slater, Paula (6 February 2020). "Japan's Kihira leads ladies at Four Continents". Golden Skate.
- Slater, Paula (8 February 2020). "Kihira defends title at Four Continents". Golden Skate.
- Browne, Ken (13 June 2020). "Kihira Rika to add Hanyu's mentor Brian Orser as second coach". Olympic Channel.
- "【フィギュア】バースデー独占告白！ 紀平梨花が語った「浅田真央さん」と「18歳の願い」" [Birthday exclusive confession! "Mao Asada" and "18-year-old wish" that Rika Kihira talked about] (in Japanese). Yahoo Japan.
- The Skating School [@SkatingSchoolCH] (23 July 2020). "@DenissVasiljevs, Koshiro Shimada, Alexia Paganini, @rika_kihira and others were following Peter Grütter's master class on Skating Skills this morning! #Camp3S" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Gallagher, Jack (11 December 2018). "Rika Kihira now the favorite for world title". The Japan Times.
- "Rika KIHIRA: 2019/2020". International Skating Union. Archived from the original on 16 September 2019.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
- "Rika KIHIRA: 2018/2019". International Skating Union. Archived from the original on 6 October 2018.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
- "木下グループ presents スターズ・オン・アイス 2018 (Special)". TBS 2. 21 April 2018.
- "フィギュア紀平梨花が練習で４回転ジャンプに成功". Yahoo! Japan (in Japanese). 日刊スポーツ. 2 July 2017.[permanent dead link]
- "Rika KIHIRA: 2017/2018". International Skating Union. Archived from the original on 16 November 2017.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
- "Competition Results: Rika KIHIRA". International Skating Union.
- "紀平 梨花" [KIHIRA Rika] (in Japanese). Japan Skating Federation. Archived from the original on 18 September 2016.
- "|Japan Skating Federation Official Results & Data Site|". www.jsfresults.com. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
|World Record Holders|
| Ladies' Short Program
6 December 2018 – 22 November 2019
| Ladies' Free Skating
22 September 2018 – 28 September 2018