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Japan's Mihara wins 2nd Four Continents figure skating title

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Mai Mihara won her second career Four Continents figure skating title on Saturday in a strong recovery from missing out on the Japanese team for the Winter Olympics, and Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov took pairs gold for the United States.

Mihara was near-flawless in Saturday's free skate with a program packed with triple jumps until she ran out of momentum on her final combination spin. It was still more than enough to keep her lead from the short program.

Mihara scored a total 218.03 points to win a second Four Continents title after claiming the gold in 2017. Japanese skaters have won the women's gold at the last six editions of the event, which brings together leading skaters from outside Europe. Mihara placed fourth at Japanese nationals, when the top three were selected for the Olympic team.

South Korean skaters claimed the silver and bronze, with Lee Hae-in scoring 213.52 and Kim Ye-lim on 209.91.

Lu and Mitrofanov became the first U.S. pair to win Four Continents gold since 2018 after recovering from Lu's early fall on a triple toeloop to post 120.75 in the free skate for a total of 189.10. Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe were third in the short program but climbed to second in the free skate to claim silver with 180.94, with bronze for Canada's Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud on 179.70.

The Canadians were second after the short program and Walsh, of London, Ont., said they were disappointed in their free skate. 

‘’We made some costly errors today that going forward we know we can’t make," she said. 

The bronze marks the pairs' first international medal, coming after they took silver at nationals earlier this month.  

‘’We were feeling very confident after nationals and had a great short program here," said Michaud of Trenton, Ont. "We had a lot of good things in the free skate today we just made one or two errors we don’t usually make.’’

Deanna Stellato and Maxime Deschamps of Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que., finished fourth at 172.71.Lori-Ann Matte and Thierry Ferland of Levis, Que., came in sixth with 163.60.

Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., placed 10th in the women's competition, while Alison Schumacher of Tecumseh, Ont.,came in 11th and Veronik Mallet of Sept-Iles, Que., finished 13th.

The risk of catching the coronavirus ahead of the Winter Olympics has meant many of the top U.S., Canadian and Japanese skaters have opted to skip Four Continents, which was relocated to be held in Europe for the first time amid the pandemic. China did not send a team at all.

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The Associated Press