Japan's Suzuki leads women's event at NHK Trophy
Japan's Akiko Suzuki produced a near-flawless short program Friday to upstage compatriot Mao Asada and take the early lead at the NHK Trophy.
Skating to "Hungarian Rhapsody," Suzuki opened with a triple toeloop, triple toeloop combination and hit all her jumps to finish the short program with a personal-best 66.55 points. Russian skater Alena Leonova was second with 61.79 points followed by Asada with 58.42 points.
"I'm very happy with my short program," Suzuki said. "Last season, my coach told me the triple-triple was necessary. I just couldn't do it before and he said I must have it in my program or I wouldn't reach the top."
Canadian champion Cynthia Phaneuf was ninth in the short program. The 23-year-old from Contrecoeur, Que., finished and seventh at the 2008 tournament and sixth in 2009.
Leonova skated a lively program to the theme song from "Pirates of the Caribbean" that also included a triple toeloop, triple toeloop combination at the start of her program.
Two-time world champion Asada, who is skating in her first Grand Prix event of the season, attempted a triple axel to open her routine but only managed a single to finish third.
"I thought too much about the triple axel," Asada. "I've been practising it before the season started and my coach said I could do a double axel today but I wanted to give the triple a shot."
Asada hasn't won an event since the 2010 world championships and is hoping to rediscover her form after struggling in the Grand Prix series last season.
Ashley Wagner of the United States was fifth with 55.88 points ahead of compatriot Agnes Zawadzki who finished sixth with 53.84 points.
The women's event wraps up Saturday with the free skate.