Ice Network

'Nervous' Miyahara outclasses ladies field in SLC

Bell sets personal best, finishes second; Chen falls twice, lands in sixth
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Satoko Miyahara floated through her short to "Musetta's Waltz" from 'La Bohème,' gliding over the ice with incredible ease. The 2015 world silver medalist earned 70.09 points for her backloaded program -- her two hardest jumping passes occurred past the midway point -- and sits in first place by almost 10 points. -Melissa Majchrzak

SALT LAKE CITY - Satoko Miyahara took the nerves that could have made her first competition of the season a struggle and used them to energize her short program at the 2016 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City.

"I was a little bit nervous," said the soft-spoken Japanese skater who earned the afternoon's top score (70.09 points). "It was my first competition. I think I skated fine."

She shrugged and smiled.

"It gives me confidence for tomorrow," she said.

All of the competitors in Friday's ladies short program looked at this week's competition as the entrance to the season they hope to have. For some, it was a solid start; for others, it was disappointing.

U.S. skater Mariah Bell sits second after the short program with a score of 60.64.

"I feel like I've gotten to a point in the last month or so where my triple-triples felt so consistent," she said. "I felt really good on the lutz; the toe was a little off, but that's an easy fix. And it's early in the season."

The 20-year-old said her short program contains all the elements she wants, but she knows it needs a lot more polish if she wants to accomplish the goals she has for herself.

"It's the quality of the program that I think is going to continue to grow," Bell said.

There is one area in particular she knows she needs to improve.

"I know I have some spin issues," she said. "It comes and goes, and one competition I feel good about rushing to the spins, so I tend to rush them. But that's giving points away, so I need to work on that."

Da-bin Choi of South Korea is in third place with 58.70 points.

"This performance was good for me," she said. "It felt good. I need more perfecting."

American Emily Chan, 19, is trying to juggle her first semester of college with the start of international competition.

"This competition is more of a stepping stone," she said after finishing fourth with 54.22 points. "I've been practicing a lot. Things haven't been going as well, so my goal here was to show what I've been working on and hopefully improve."

She said she will try to approach Saturday's free skate with more abandon, and that scoring lower than she expected in the short may make that easier to accomplish than normal.

"I guess I could look at it in the way that I have nothing to lose," Chan said. "So, no stress. I mean, the first one is already over, kind of got the nerves out. So tomorrow, hopefully, will be me skating a little looser."

Her U.S. teammate, Paige Rydberg, who sits fifth with a score of 52.33, had the most reason to be nervous: The 16-year-old was competing in the first senior international event of her career. She said having skated at the Salt Lake Sports Complex in other competitions gave her a bit of a confidence boost.

"It helped a lot," Rydberg said. "I was really comfortable with the place (arena), the hotel, everything. It calmed me a little bit."

The American who had the toughest day was Karen Chen, who fell twice in her program, resulting in a score of 51.50.

"Mistakes happen," Chan said. "I had a tough season last year, so I've really learned that things just don't go the way you planned or expected. You just have to keep pushing through and keep going forward."