Mao Asada leads after short program
TOKYO -- Two-time world champion Mao Asada won the women's short program on Friday to take a huge step toward winning her fourth NHK Trophy.
Asada two-footed her opening triple axel but was solid in all other elements to finish with 71.26 points, five ahead of Akiko Suzuki.
"I missed the triple axel, but I'm not worried about it. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad," said Asada, who won Skate America, the first Grand Prix of the season.
Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, could secure a place at the GP Final in Fukuoka next month with a podium finish. The NHK and the GP Final are part of Asada `s preparations for the Sochi Olympics but she said she wasn't thinking too far ahead.
"I wasn't thinking about Sochi, I want to take it one competition at a time this season," Asada said.
Gracie Gold and Elena Radionova were tied for third with 62.83 points.
In the men's event, 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi skated a near flawless routine to "Sonatino for Violin" to take a commanding lead with 95.55 points, more than 10 points ahead of Javier Fernandez, in second.
Nobunari Oda under-rotated his opening quad toe loop to "Cotton Club" and was third with 82.70.
Takahashi is aiming to bounce back from a disappointing fourth place at Skate America.
"After Skate America my coach (Nikolai Morozov) and other staff said my motivation did not look good," Takahashi said. "I have had to reset myself and show my motivation to make it to the Olympics."
Fernandez, the defending European champion, touched the ice with his hand on his quad salchow, but still impressed the judges with the remainder of his program.
Adam Rippon of the United States stumbled during his step sequence and was fourth.
In pairs, reigning world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov overwhelmed the competition on their way to winning the short program. The Russians, who have not lost a competition since the 2012 world championships, scored 82.03 and are almost 12 points ahead of China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong. Another Chinese team, Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao, were third.
Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, the reigning junior world champions, are in fourth with 58.67, 0.07 ahead of U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.