Rio Nakata struggled with his jumps during the short program at the Junior Grand Prix Final in Beijing on Thursday, December 7 and is in fourth place heading into Saturday's free skate. The 15-year-old, who won both of his JGPs in the 2023-24 season, was off his game from the outset this day.
South Korea's Hyungyeom Kim is in first place with 77.01 points, ahead of compatriot Juheon Lim, who is second at 73.72. Slovakia's Adam Hagara is in third with 71.43.
Nakata's tally was 67.71 after he fell on his opening triple axel in his skate to "God Particle" and "160 Bpm." His triple flip/triple toe loop combination jump was far from smooth and he also had an edge call on his triple lutz.
The good news is that he still has a shot at a medal being only four points out of third place. Nakata earned level fours on two of his spins, but notched just a level two on the other, while receiving a level three on his step sequence.
After his banner JGP campaign, Nakata struggled at the Japan Junior Championships in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, in November and came in second. He led after the short program but had jump issues in his free skate.
Nakata Has Lofty Ambitions at the Junior Grand Prix Final
Nakata, who is coached by his father Makoto and Kensuke Nakaniwa, is by far the youngest of the six junior men at the JGP Final and admitted that he was rattled by the big stage.
"I wanted to show the world what I can do," Nakata stated. "It's my biggest competition so far and that made me really nervous. Being the youngest competitor here I feel like I am so small and the others are so big.
"So I have to compensate for it by skating big!" Nakata added. "In the free (skate) I want to show the world my quad!"
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Author: Jack Gallagher
The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world's foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, and find him on X (formerly Twitter) @sportsjapan.