Ava Ziegler caps historic US figure skating breakthrough with shock NHK Trophy win

Ava Marie Ziegler performed a near-flawless free skate on Saturday, winning the NHK Trophy and leading an American one-two on the podium.

Fifth after the short program, Ziegler landed all her jumps cleanly, including seven triples, and scored a personal best 138.46 points in the free skate for her first Grand Prix series title with a total of 200.50, also a personal best and the top free skate score by an American this season.

Ziegler, who placed ninth among the first U.S. seniors in January, broke the U.S. women’s record for the fastest ascent to a Grand Prix title and topped the podium in just her second career start in figure skating’s top class. Her mother, Tricia, placed fifth at the 1995 U.S. Championships.

Lindsay Thorngren, who was in the lead after the short program, fell on a double salchow but was solid on all her other jumps, finishing second with 198.73 points.

Belgium’s Nina Pinzarrone came third with 194.66, a result that secured her a place in the Grand Prix Final to be held in Beijing from December 7 to 10. South Korean Lee Hae-in came fourth with 188.95 points.

The 17-year-old Ziegler, skating to Liberation and Bound to You by Christina Aguilera, landed a triple flip-double axel-double axel sequence and six more triple jumps.

“I really used my fifth place result yesterday to motivate me because I know I could do better and I really used it to push me to be the best I can be today,” said the native of New Jersey.

Thorngren’s program to music from Twilight included a triple lutz-triple toe combination and three more clean triples.

It was the first Grand Prix medal for 17-year-old Thorngren, also from New Jersey.

“I know I can do better, but I’m very happy with how I performed here and the experience I gained,” said Thorngren, who revealed she sprained her ankle before training for the short program.

Ava Marie Ziegler from the United States reacts after her free skate on Saturday in Osaka. Photo: Toru Hanai/International Skating Union/Getty Images

According to NBC Sports, it was the first American women’s one-two in a Grand Prix since Skate America 2016 (when Ashley Wagner and Mariah Bell topped the podium) and the first in a Grand Prix other than Skate America since the March Grand Prix 1997. Finale (Tara Lipinski, Michelle Kwan).

Two-time world champion Kaori Sakamoto from Japan, Isabeau Levito from the United States and Loena Hendrickx from Belgium have already qualified for the GP Final, as have Japanese skaters Hana Yoshida and Rion Sumiyoshi.

The NHK Trophy is the sixth and final event of the International Skating Union’s Grand Prix series, which leads into the Grand Prix Final.

In ice dancing, European silver medalists Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain won the gold medal with a personal best score of 130.26 in the free dance for a total of 215.19.

European champions Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy came second with 214.56 points, followed by Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius of Lithuania, who came third with 196.86.

With their victory in Japan, Fear and Gibson qualified for the GP final together with Guignard and Fabbri.

The competition will conclude later Saturday with the free skate for both men and couples.

Japan’s Yuma Kagiyama defeated two-time world champion and compatriot Shoma Uno on Friday to finish first in the men’s short program.