Riku-Ryu Pair Returns Strong at Four Continents Figure Skating Championships | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Riku-Ryu Pair Returns Strong at Four Continents Figure Skating Championships

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
At the Four Continents Championships, he made his long-awaited return.

Despite being forced to take a detour, their bond deepened as a result.


Miura Riku (22) and Kihara Ryuichi (31), affectionately known as the “Rikuryu Pair” in the world of figure skating (both from the Kinoshita Academy), made their comeback in competition after approximately four months at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Shanghai in February.


Although they approached the stage as the reigning champions, the result was second place. While they succeeded in regaining their competitive edge for the World Championships in Montreal, Canada, starting on March 20, there were still challenges to overcome.

“It was evident that we were not fully prepared, so the bigger concern was whether we could make it through to the end without any injuries. It was a competition where we decided to participate just to assess our current situation, regardless of our ranking or scores. Of course, I felt frustrated, but Riku-chan and I talked about how there’s still plenty of room for improvement,” says Kihara, speaking alongside Miura.

Kihara’s expression conveyed a sense of fulfillment and relief.

Last season, achieving the “Grand Slam” by winning all major international competitions organized by the International Skating Union (ISU), including the Grand Prix (GP) Final, Four Continents Championships, and World Championships, was a remarkable feat in disciplines that had long been considered a weakness for Japanese skaters.

However, after the Autumn Classic in September, Kihara was diagnosed with lumbar spondylolisthesis and decided to withdraw from the GP series and the All Japan Championships to focus on treatment and rehabilitation. To ensure a complete comeback for the World Championships where their consecutive victory is at stake, they wanted to compete in February. In preparation for the Four Continents Championships, the pair worked intensively.

“At the end of last December, the team discussed aiming for the Four Continents Championships, and from the second week of January, we finally began practicing pair elements. Two weeks before the competition, we started running through the short program (SP), and last week, we managed to run through the free program for the first time. Although we decided to compete because we had reached a competitive level, the free program was tough. The coach jokingly told me, ‘If it’s too tough, you can stop and take a break during the spins,’ so I actually considered stopping in the middle of the competition,” Kihara said.

The short program features the distinctive upbeat violin tones of “Dare You to Move.” Explaining the emotions behind the performance, Kihara says, “We’re rising up again from here. We’ll do it again. It’s an image of crawling back up.”

While there was a mistake where Miura’s triple toe loop turned into a double, the lifts and steps executed by Kihara, lifting Miura, were marked with the highest difficulty level of 4. Keeping significant errors to a minimum, they secured second place with scores of 65.61, barely clearing their target of 65 points.

The bond between the two was further deepened.

However, two days later, the free skate still couldn’t hide the rustiness and lack of adjustment. Set to the gentle melody of Celine Dion’s “Une chance qu’on s’a,” they executed a brilliant twist lift at the beginning, but mistakes crept in during the subsequent triple jumps, and there were missed scoring opportunities in lifts and spins.

As fatigue set in, Kihara faltered in the latter half, admitting, “It was all embarrassing moments. I wanted to aim for a higher placement and get better scores, but the reality isn’t that easy,” as he took a breath to compose himself.

However, there was hardly any sense of despair from the duo. After the free skate, Miura shared a heartfelt moment.

“Two days ago, after the short program, I received a message from Ryuchi’s mother saying, ‘Thank you for waiting until your injury was fully healed. I was deeply moved.’ At that moment, I thought, ‘I’ll skate with a smile for Ryuchi’s mother.'”

Listening nearby, Kihara responded with a smile,

“He jokingly said, ‘You’re not skating for my sake!’ But before the short program, he received a message like that from his mother, and it seems his feelings shifted. I also want to thank my mother.”

With their lighthearted banter, the atmosphere in the mixed zone where the interviews took place became warm and welcoming.

Now, they are burning for revenge at the World Championships.

In the 2014 Sochi and 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Kihara competed with different partners. In April 2019, he announced the dissolution of his partnership. At the end of July, Kihara teamed up with Miura for a tryout to assess each other’s skills. During a twist lift, Kihara felt a sensation akin to being struck by lightning, realizing, “People float like this.” This prompted him to decide immediately to form the partnership, thinking it might be their last chance.

And that intuition became a reality. They became instrumental in winning Japan’s first team silver medal at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and dominated the titles last season, becoming faces of the figure skating world. Unfazed by Kihara’s first trial of injury, the Rikuryu pair sees it as further fuel for growth. Miura explains, 

“While Ryuchi was working hard on rehabilitation, the rehab teacher told him, ‘You have to become stronger together.’ I think both of us have become mentally stronger.”

Kihara adds, 

“The rehab teacher told us, ‘Instead of pulling the weaker one, both of you become stronger together. If you do that, you will become even stronger.’ So, both of us became stronger.”

Their total score at the Four Continents Championships was over 30 points below their personal best from last season. Time until the World Championships is limited, and the path to a second consecutive title is challenging. However, Kihara maintains a confident stance, saying, “This time, there were many intentional omissions in the transition (between moves). The program still has many incomplete parts. I have regained confidence in my skills, and I am confident that as long as we continue, everything will be fine.”

Hoping that the “Rikuryu” pair, with their aligned mind, skill, and body, will shine again at the World Championships in Montreal.

  • Interview and text by Daichi Hadano PHOTO Kyodo News

Photo Gallery3 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles