Rika Kihira: “Although it was a season where I did what I could and it wasn’t a bad season, I don’t consider it a complete comeback.”
Interview with Rika Kihira. About recovery from injury, past season and plans for the new one.
source: tokyo-sports.co.jp dd. 21st July 2023 by Souta Nakanishi
On her 21st birthday, Rika Kihira, the 2018 Grand Prix Final champion, gave an exclusive interview and revealed her current situation. During the previous season, she battled with a right ankle injury, faced frustrations due to the inability to practice as desired, and the success of her rivals. Despite the things didn’t go smoothly, she achieved significant growth in mind, skill, and body. In her interview, she shared her strong determination for a complete comeback.
How was your first season in your 20s?
Rika Kihira: The season passed surprisingly quickly. I started the season with anxiety about the injury and the pain persisted throughout the year. It was a season with a new feeling that I had never experienced before. Although it was a season where I did what I could, I don’t consider it a complete comeback season. I want to get my body back to a state of complete recovery as soon as possible.
Did you struggle with the difficulty of not being able to practice enough?
Rika Kihira: Pushing my body to the limit in training while being in a healthy condition was tough, but I also faced the frustration of hurting my ankle when I pushed too hard in practice. I didn’t want to be seen as having limitations in my abilities. If there hadn’t been any pain, I would have been able to practice triple lutz and other elements, but focusing on competitions and utilizing my past experiences was the approach I took, so I don’t think it was a bad season.
Gained confidence in making a comeback once the injury heals.
Rika Kihira: Yes, that’s right. I felt that if I could adjust well even with the injury, I could come back properly, or rather, I realized that I hadn’t forgotten the sensations. Initially, it was tough in terms of physical strength, but as I continued practicing, I found it easier to catch my breath, and I felt my muscle strength returning. I felt like I could come back relatively quickly as I kept building up every day, so grasping that sensation was both rewarding and something I can utilize in the future.
Did you keep an eye on the performance of skaters like Kaori Sakamoto, who won two consecutive World Championships, and other young skaters?
Rika Kihira: Of course, I saw them in the news, but I intentionally didn’t closely examine their performances or scores. My main focus is on doing my best rather than comparing myself to others. So, I tried not to rush or get anxious and instead focused on my own plans and what I should be doing.
How is your right ankle recovering?
Rika Kihira: It feels better than it did around the start of last season, but looking back, it was in pretty bad shape. So, I have a strong desire to get rid of the pain as soon as possible. If asked if it’s completely healed now, it might not be. However, I don’t want it to be an injury that affects my daily life, so I have to be careful about that. Right now, I’m not doing a lot of jump training. I’m starting from rebuilding my physical strength, muscle, and sensations. So, it’s like I’m checking my sensations while consulting with my right ankle.
What are your goals for this season?
Rika Kihira: It’s July now, so I don’t want to rush things. For now, my main focus is on peaking at the Japanese Nationals in December. Of course, I want to stand on the podium. The first priority is to bring myself to the best possible condition, but once I reach that point (with my right ankle), I believe I’ll be in a position to aim for the podium without a doubt.
What kind of year do you want to have at 21?
Rika Kihira: It’s already 21, and I do feel that thought, but as I age, I don’t change as a person. I want to spend this year in a way that when I look back on my life, I can feel that my hard work has paid off, and I want to bring smiles to everyone who supports me. Of course, I also want to make choices within myself that I won’t regret.
In early July, Kihira traveled to Toronto, Canada, and is currently participating in a summer camp at a Cricket Club. In addition to on-ice training, she is also dedicating herself to off-ice practices such as Pilates and dance. For this season, she plans to have a new Short Program and explained, “I haven’t decided on the music yet, but I think we’ll start discussing it soon. I expect the music to be finalized sometime this week or next week.” As for her Free Skate, she will keep her “Titanic” program from the previous season.
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