HELSINKI -- Japan managed to secure just two women's figure skating slots for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics next year, losing a spot for the first time since the 2006 Torino Olympics.
Japan's Mai Mihara, Wakaba Higuchi and Rika Hongo competed in the World Figure Skating Championships held in Helsinki and were placed 5th, 11th and 16th, respectively, after the women's free program ended on March 31. As a result, the combined ranking of the top two Japanese skaters was 16, exceeding the requirement of "13 or lower" to secure three Olympic spots -- the largest number of slots given to a single country. Russia, Canada and the United States have all secured three spots for the women's figure skating competition at the 2018 Games.
Yoshiko Kobayashi of the Japan Skating Federation, who is in charge of figure skating development, commented, "I feel responsible for losing the triple berth. I want the skaters to compensate at the Olympics."
Japan's Satoko Miyahara, who won silver at the 2015 worlds and came in first in the Japan Figure Skating Championships in December last year, missed this year's world championships due to a hip injury, and Hongo replaced Miyahara for the latest competition.
This year's Japan championships in December will likely be the last before deciding on the figure skating delegation for the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Japan's slots for men's figure skating at the Olympics will be decided after the free program scheduled for April 1.