Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim Win Bronze at NHK Trophy

Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim won the bronze medal in the pairs event at NHK Trophy on Saturday in Hiroshima, Japan.

The couple earned the third highest free skate score of the night, 125.74, to move up from their fourth-place finish in the short program for a spot on the podium. Both the segment score and total of 190.49 set new season’s bests for the reigning U.S. champions. The Knierims received a Level 4 for each of their lifts, death spiral and pair combination spin. They overcame individual mishaps on both sets of side-by-side jumps to end their free skate to “Wicked Game” with two impressive triple throw jumps, a flip and loop. This marks the team’s first medal on the Grand Prix circuit since also winning bronze at NHK Trophy in 2015.

2018 U.S. silver medalists Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea finished fifth overall after tallying 105.16 points for their Swan Lake free skate and 164.16 total points. The duo executed three Level 4 lifts, but stumbled on their side-by-side jumps and incurred two falls. Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov finished seventh with a 149.25-point total in their senior Grand Prix debut.

Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert of Russia held onto their lead after the short to win the pairs title. China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin took silver.

Both ice dance teams representing the United States are in the top three following the rhythm dance. Currently in second, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker made their season debut to earn 70.71 points. The duo, who recently moved to Montreal to train under Patrice Lauzon, Marie-France Dubreuil and Romain Haguenauer, received two Level 4s for their synchronized twizzles and closing curve lift in their Tango Romantica. The sibling team of Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons are close behind in third with a score of 69.07. The Maryland-based team earned the second highest technical score of the night with 37.36 and also executed two Level 4 elements.

Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro of Russia are in first heading into the free dance.

In the ladies event, Mariah Bell posted the fourth-best free skate score (135.99) to finish fifth overall. Bell landed six triple jumps total with three passes receiving a bonus in the second half of her program set to music by Ludovico Einaudi. Both her segment score of 135.99 and her 198.96 total were personal bests. Courtney Hicks opened her Nutcracker free skate with a solid triple flip-triple loop combination. With all positive Grades of Execution for her performance and a total of 178.07, she improved her placement by two to finish eighth overall. Angela Wang finished 11th with 159.36 points.

Japan’s Rika Kihira landed two triple Axels, one in combination, in her free skate en route to the ladies title. Fellow countrywoman Satoko Miyahara and Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva finished second and third, respectively.

Skating to music from the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack, Vincent Zhou finished just off the podium with a free skate score of 147.52 points and a total of 223.42. Despite doubling his opening quad Lutz attempt, the 2018 U.S. bronze medalist landed two other quad jumps. Zhou’s technical score of 71.66 was the third highest in the men’s free skate. Alexander Johnson completed his Grand Prix debut with a seventh-place finish, tallying 127.72 points in his free skate and for 199.75 total points.

NHK Trophy concludes with the free dance on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET.