Beijing Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama took the lead after the short program at the NHK Trophy in Kadoma, Osaka Prefecture, on Friday night, November 24 with a spectacular performance. The 20-year-old wowed the crowd at Ractab Dome with a sublime combination of power and artistry.
Kagiyama, who is trying to clinch a spot in December's Grand Prix Final with a top-two finish, is in first place with a score of 105.51 points, ahead of two-time world champion Shoma Uno, who is second with 100.20. Switzerland's Lukas Britschgi is in third at 86.42.
Uno, who is also seeking to secure a spot in the GP Final with a first- or second-place showing, had a solid outing himself but was not up to the level of his compatriot on this evening.
Kagiyama skated to "Believer" and energized the audience with beautiful line and edge throughout his routine. He opened with a huge quadruple salchow, followed by a quad toe loop/triple toe loop combination jump, and went on to hit a nice triple axel and earned level fours on his spins and step sequence. Kagiyama now owns the top short program score in the world this season.
"I didn't really care about the world's highest score," Kagiyama was quoted as saying. "However, today I was most conscious of making sure I was able to put everything together properly. I am very happy that I received a score of 105 points."
He continued: "I was able to get all of my [program component] scores in the 9-point range, which I am happy about."
Kagiyama added, "I also managed to get all level fours, so I guess that was my takeaway from this experience."
Uno Experiences Jump Issues in Short Program
The 25-year-old Uno competed to "I Love You Kung Fu" and "Claire de Lune" and began with a strong quad flip. But he had issues with the quad toe loop/triple toe loop jump that followed. He was a quarter rotation short on the front end of the combo and under-rotated the back end of it. Uno registered level fours on two spins and his step sequence.
"I think today's performance was very good," Uno commented, adding, "I gave all I have in terms of my expression. The score isn't too bad. Overall, I'm satisfied.
"The first jump of the combinations had a 'q' (a quarter rotation short on a jump), the second was a bit under-rotated, but the performance was good," Uno continued. "I'm looking forward to everyone's opinion about my scoring in jumps and the other elements."
Tatsuya Tsuboi is in 12th place with 64.63.
NHK Trophy Standout: Thorngren Seizes Lead After Women's Short Program
Earlier Friday, Lindsay Thorngren of the United States won the women's short program in a surprise result. The 17-year-old is in front with a five-point margin at 68.93, with Belgium's Nina Pinzarrone in second at 63.44 and world silver medalist Haein Lee of South Korea third on 62.93.
Mai Mihara, still dealing with the right ankle injury that caused her to miss the Cup of China (November 10-12), is in contention for a medal in fourth at 62.82. Yuna Aoki stands in eighth with 58.28, while Wakaba Higuchi is way back in 11th (52.18).
Thorngren gave a lovely skate to "Windmills of Your Mind" with an opening triple lutz/triple toe loop combo, then a double axel. The only blemish in her routine came when she got an edge call on a triple flip, but she notched level fours on her spins and step sequence in a fine showing.
"Honestly, it is unexpected to be in first place, but I am ready to fight for a medal tomorrow," Thorngren commented. "I will do my best and hope to skate clean."
Mihara under-rotated a triple lutz and was judged a quarter short on a triple flip in her skate to "To Love You More." She did post level fours on two of her spins and step sequence.
"Tomorrow I want to be more focused during the warmup and the performance as well," Mihara remarked. "I want to try not to think too much about my leg and give everything I have."
Higuchi Struggles Throughout Her Short Program
Higuchi had a calamitous outing in her performance to "Never Tear Us Apart," falling on a triple lutz, then botching her combo jump by under-rotating the triple flip on the front end and singling the toe loop on the back. She received level threes on two of her spins and a level two on her step sequence.
The poor outing eliminated any chance the 22-year-old Higuchi had of making the GP Final.
"After my axel, I was very calm, but when it came to the lutz, I made a mistake I usually don't do in training," Higuchi declared. "I will re-watch the recording later. In total, I had two big mistakes, and that influenced my score."
She then said, "I thought to combine my flip with a jump, and then I missed it."
Added Higuchi, "I don't know the reason for messing up the lutz. My movements weren't too bad, so tomorrow, I don't want to overthink it."
Hase, Volodin Take Lead in Pairs
Minerva Hase and Nikita Volodin of Germany lead the pairs after the short program at 67.23. Italy's Lucrezia Beccari and Matteo Guarise are in second on 66.77
Yuna Nagaoka and Sumitada Moriguchi are in eighth with 45.36.
Italy's Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, the silver medalists at last season's worlds, are in first place after the rhythm dance with 85.27. Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain are in second at 84.93.
The NHK Trophy will continue on Saturday with the free dance, followed by the women's, pairs and men's free skates.
Author: Jack Gallagher
The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world's foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, and find him on X (formerly Twitter) @sportsjapan.