Russian ‘Empress’ Tuktamysheva draws first blood at Japan skate

Russian 'Empress' Tuktamysheva draws first blood at Japan skate

Hiroshima (Japan) (AFP) – Russian “Empress” Elizaveta Tuktamysheva topped the short programme at the NHK Trophy figure skating competition on Friday, edging out local favourite Satoko Miyahara after a dazzling display.

Former world champion Tuktamysheva earned a standing ovation after landing exquisite triple axel and lutz attempts in Hiroshima, the fourth leg of the six-event grand prix series.

Her score of 76.17 points is the season’s second-best behind Olympic champion Alina Zagitova.

Japan’s Miyahara finished just 0.09 points behind Tuktamysheva with countrywoman Mai Mihara scoring 70.38 and South Korean Lim Eun-soo fourth on 69.78.

“I was a little nervous but I got through it pretty well,” said two-time world medallist Miyahara after a season’s best. “It was a good way to start.”

Tuktamysheva and Miyahara are both chasing a second grand prix title of the season.

Russians Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert carried their title-winning form from Helsinki last week into the pairs short programme, setting a best score of 73.48 points.

China’s Peng Cheng and Jin Yang kept in touch with 70.66 ahead of Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro, who scored 67.70 points.

Olympic and world silver medallist Shoma Uno crashed to the ice attempting a quadruple toe-loop but still led after the men’s short programme with a score of 92.49 points.

The red-hot favourite has a 1.12-point advantage over Russia’s Sergei Voronov, while another Russian, Dmitri Aliev lies third going into the weekend’s free skate.

“I really went for it,” said Uno. “I’ve got no regrets — just the fall. But I’ll regroup and give it everything in the free skate.”

This week’s competition is key for several skaters hoping to qualify for the December 6-9 Grand Prix Final in Vancouver.