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Miyahara bests Asada to take gold at NHK Trophy

Hicks wins surprise silver for first Grand Prix medal; Wagner places fourth
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In a somewhat surprising result, world silver medalist Satoko Miyahara claimed her first Grand Prix gold medal with a personal-best total score of 203.11, outperforming teammate and three-time world champion Mao Asada in the process. The Japanese skater qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the first time in her career. -Getty Images

Japan's Satoko Miyahara won her first Grand Prix gold medal at the 2015 NHK Trophy. Team USA's Courtney Hicks took a surprise silver medal, and Mao Asada moved up from fourth after the short program to finish third overall. 

Miyahara skated to "Un sospiro" by Franz Liszt. She opened her program with a triple lutz-double toe-double loop combination, and continued with a triple loop and a triple flip landed after a step sequence. Her jumps looked very crisp and well articulated.

"We paid attention to the placement of her head at each jump," Miyahara's coach Mie Hamada explained. "Because she wanted to rotate so badly, she had a tendency to look too much ahead, and it threw off her balance sometimes."

In her free skate, Miyahara completed seven triples, including two double axel-triple toe combinations, although her second double axel was deemed under-rotated. Her final layback spin, which she said is her favorite move, received a +3 Grade of Execution (GOE) from eight of nine judges. She gained 133.58 points in the free skate to finish with a personal-best overall score of 203.11.

"I'm so happy. It still hasn't sunk in yet," she said. "I'm also very happy to go to the Grand Prix Final for the first time. It was one of my goals for the season to get there."

When asked about her thoughts on topping Mao Asada at a competition for the first time, Miyahara stressed that this is only one event. 

"I placed above her here, but she has achieved so much in the past," Miyahara said. "Compared to her, I'm only starting."

Hicks held on to second place to clinch her first career Grand Prix medal. Her Elizabeth: The Golden Age routine didn't have an easy start: She stumbled on the landing of the second jump of her triple flip-triple toe combination and fell on a triple lutz. She quickly recovered and landed a triple lutz-double toe combination, a triple loop and three more jumps.

When asked how she regained her composure, Hicks said it was about moving on from mistakes.

"I can't do anything about what already happened, so I tried to focus on each element as it came and tried to stay in the moment," Hicks said.

She received 117.52 points for her free to come away with an overall score of 183.12 points, a personal-best mark.

"This is my first Grand Prix medal, and I'm so happy," Hicks said with a smile. 

U.S.champion Ashley Wagner didn't skate up to her normal standard, settling for fourth place. Her Moulin Rouge! free skate featured sevent attempted triples, but some of her landings were wobbly and her toe and salchow were downgraded.  

"It was really a bad day," Wagner said. "I came here so prepared and was skating better than ever, but I didn't deliver when I needed to."

Skating after home-crowd favorite Asada wasn't easy, Wagner admitted.  

"But, at the end of the day, my skating was the result of my actions and not anybody else's," she said.

With her first-place finish at Skate Canada, Wagner still qualified for the Grand Prix Final.  

Mirai Nagasu skated to music from The Great Gatsby soundtrack and earned 114.54 points for her free to finish with an overall score of 175.64. Both of her triple toes were penalized for under-rotations, and one was downgraded, but she had nice speed and good flow all way to the end. 

"I've been practicing a lot better than (how I performed) here, so I'm a little disappointed," Nagasu said. "But I was able to achieve two personal-best scores, so I'm proud of that. It gives me a confidence going into nationals."

Mao Asada rallied from fourth place after the short program to finish third overall, but it was far from the performance she was hoping to put out. Skating to the famous opera Madame Butterfly, Asada popped her opening axel to a double. The landing on her triple flip was shaky and she was only able to come away with a double toe instead of a triple. She managed to land a double axel-triple toe combination, a triple salchow and triple loop, collecting 120.49 points in the free skate for a 182.99-point total.

"I felt that my jumps were off this morning at practice, so I was afraid this might happen," Asada said with teary eyes. "It felt like my mind and my body were not coordinating well together. 

"I don't have much time until the Final, but I need to look over everything and make some adjustments," she continued.

Asada qualified for the Grand Prix Final with her win at Cup of China and her bronze medal in Japan. In addition to Miyahara and Wagner, the other ladies to qualify are Gracie Gold, Elena Radionova and Evgenia Medvedeva.