Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara: “When we competed at the Four Continents for the first time in our debut season, we talked to each other about wanting to become the kind of skaters who could attend press conferences someday.”
Article and small interview with Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara ahead of World Championships.
source: jbpress.ismedia.jp dd. 13 March 2023 by Takaomi Matsubara
! Please take into account that interview was translated via machine translation so it may not be completely accurate or conveying all the details and nuances. !
Now, the two are a world-class pair that is expected to win at international competitions as if it were natural. And the two have responded to those expectations by achieving good results.
But that is not a given. If we consider the history of Japanese pairs and the footsteps of the two, Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara.
Japanese figure skating is attracting a lot of attention, and continues to achieve numerous good results at the Olympics and World Championships. However, this was not the case in all the disciplines. In comparison to singles skating, pairs skating had a significant gap in terms of performance. For example, it was difficult not only to win a medal at the Olympics but even placing in the top ranks was challenging.
Because there were no great results, pairs skating did not receive as much attention as single skating. This was also one of the factors behind the small number of participants.
It’s Miura and Kihara who have changed the way pairs skating is perceived. They officially announced the formation of their pair in the summer of 2019 and quickly made a name for themselves. They finished 5th in the NHK Trophy of the same season and finish 10th in the World Championships the following season, earning a spot for Japan at the Beijing Olympics.
The 2021-2022 season was truly a year of records for them. They finished 2nd and 3rd in the Grand Prix Series, securing a spot in the Grand Prix Final (which was cancelled due to the pandemic). At the Beijing Olympics, they played a significant role in Japan’s podium finish by achieving unprecedented results in the pair event with 4th place in the short program and 2nd place in the free program, making it Japan’s first wver medal finish in the team event. They also finished 7th in the individual event.
The following month, they achieved their best performance yet and won a silver medal at the World Championships, elevating themselves to become one of the world’s top pairs.
Their momentum has not slowed down this season. They won their first ever Grand Prix event at Skate Canada, followed by another victory at NHK Trophy and the Grand Prix Final, both of which were also firsts for a Japanese pair skating.
And in February of this year, they won the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. It was the first time for a Japanese pair to step onto the podium at the event, and moreover, it was the first time in history for a Japanese pair to win an ISU championships.
During a press conference at the event, Miura said:
“When we competed at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships for the first time in our debut season as a pair and placed 8th, we talked to each other about wanting to become the kind of skaters who could attend press conferences someday. That’s why we’re so happy to have achieved this now.”
In order to make their dream come true, they have been working hard. There must have been various feelings that they have put into their pair skating at the foundation.
Kihara had built up his career by competing at the Olympics with different partners at the 2014 Sochi and 2018 Pyeongchang Games, respectively. As a result, he was keenly aware of the position and scrutiny that came with being a pairs skater. Miura was searching for a new partner after parting with her previous one, while Kihara was considering retirement after feeling he had reached his limits. Pairs skating is impossible without a partner, and both of them were desperate to find someone suitable. They were likely aware of the situation pairs skating was in as well. When the two of them met, they discovered that their compatibility was astonishingly good.
“Rather than trying to adjust to each other, we fit together perfectly,” Miura has said once. This has been the biggest factor that has evolved the Japanese pair’s history in a short period of time.
They are soon approaching the World Championships. This season, the two who have come undefeated will be challenging for the Worlds title.
Considering the current dynamics, the competitors who will be competing for first place are likely to be Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier (USA). The two were the world champions of last season and in this season’s Grand Prix Final, they were just over a point behind Miura and Kihara. It is expected to be a close and fierce battle where there is no room for mistakes.
However, the two’s unwavering goal remains unchanged.
“I am happy that we were able to achieve our first victory in an ISU competition as a Japanese pair. I think our hard work as a team is starting to show results. I hope that young Japanese skaters who see us will want to do pairs skating, so we still have to work hard for the future of Japanese pairs.” (Kihara)
For their own future and the future of Japanese pairs, the two of them will challenge the big stage to build a new history.
Sota Yamamoto: “I feel like I’ve grown a lot this season. So I want to practice without any regrets and do my best at the World Championships. I want to show an even stronger version of myself.”