Mao Asada returns in style at Cup of China
3-time world champ rides triple Axel to short-program lead
Three-time world champion Mao Asada made a strong return to the Grand Prix series on Friday, finishing first in the women's short program at the Cup of China.
The Japanese skater executed her trademark triple Axel to open her routine and topped the short program with 71.73 points, comfortably ahead of Rika Hongo of Japan, who was second with 65.79 points. Courtney Hicks of the United States was third with 62.38 points.
"It went just as I pictured it," Asada said. "I was nervous before I started. I wasn't able to skate that well in practice and just tried to use the nervous energy to my advantage. I hope I can carry this momentum over into the free program."
Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, took a year off from competitive skating but announced in May she would make a comeback.
Anna Pogorilaya of Russia, the 2015 European bronze medalist, was fourth, followed by Zijun Li of China. World bronze medalist Yelena Radionova under-rotated a triple toe loop and finished sixth.
Fernandez leads men's event
World champion Javier Fernandez of Spain topped the men's short program with 93.19 points in his season debut. Boyang Jin of China, who cleanly executed a rare quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination, was second with 90.05 points, while Sergei Voronov of Russia was third with 80.99 points.
Canada's Elladj Balde placed last in the field of 12 with 64.68.
Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy finished first in the ice dance short program with 66.39 points. Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States, the 2015 world silver medalists, were second with 65.36 points, followed by Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin of Russia with 63.54.
China's Wenjing Sui and Cong Han topped the pairs' short with 74.40 points, followed by Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov (72.45) and China's Xiaoyu Yu and Jang Jin (70.06). Canada's Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch were seventh (55.42) and fellow Canadians Vanessa Grenier and Maxime Deschamps (52.41) were eight in the eight-team field.
The women's, men's, pairs' and dance events conclude Saturday with the free skates, which will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca beginning at 1:50 a.m. ET.
The Cup of China is the third event of the International Skating Union's Grand Prix series.
With files from CBC Sports