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Japan's Chiba fights nerves to triumph in women's Four Continents

By AFP

February 2, 2024 08:41 PM


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Japan's Mone Chiba fought through nerves to take the first major title of her career at the Four Continents figure skating championship in Shanghai on Friday, smashing her personal best to finish well ahead.

Chiba was already leading after breaking another best score in Thursday's short programme and looked comfortable throughout her free skate, earning 143.88 for a total of 214.98.

The 18-year-old pumped her fists in delight when the final notes of her Ennio Morricone medley faded.

"I was so nervous today that my voice has gone hoarse," she said, according to skating website Golden Skate.

"I'm glad I was able to focus on each jump ahead of me."

Chiba landed seven triple jumps in an impassioned performance, breaking into a broad smile after she successfully executed the last of them.

Her compatriot Rinka Watanabe came second in the free skate, in which she landed a notoriously difficult triple axel.

However, she ended up third overall, with 202.17 behind South Korean Kim Chae-yeon's 204.68.

"The earlier part of my performance went very well but there was a mistake at the end, which was a bit regrettable," Kim said, blaming nerves.

 'Remembering we're champions' 

 Earlier, Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier took the lead in the ice dance, scoring 85.49 in the rhythm dance.

That put them more than three points ahead of second-placed Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen, also competing for Canada.

Gilles, dressed in iridescent green and purple, and sporting neon lightning bolt earrings to suit an 80s theme, said they had settled into their routine.

"The performance quality of everything that we're doing is just another level -- and I think (we're) just not holding back, remembering who we are," she said.

"We've been really trying to remember that we are champions."

The two-time world bronze medallists missed the Four Continents last year after Gilles was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had precautionary surgery.

They are the favourites to win this year after world champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates dropped out at the last minute.

Their closest rivals Fournier Beaudry and Soerensen interpreted the 80s theme through the film "Top Gun", skating to the soundtrack and dressing in character -- right down to Fournier Beaudry's perm.

The pair, who are a couple off the ice, withdrew from the Canadian national championships last month after Soerensen confirmed reports he is under investigation by Canada's Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner for alleged sexual assault.

Soerensen said in a social media post at the time that the allegations were false but that his presence at the national competition would be "distracting".

The US pair of Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko are in third place going into Sunday's free dance.


AFP


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