SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — Defending titleholder Shoma Uno of Japan edged American teen Ilia Malinin to lead the men’s short program at the world figure skating championships on Thursday.
Uno opened with a triple flip at Saitama Super Arena and followed with a quadruple toeloop, double toeloop combination. He finished with a triple axel for a season-best 104.63 points, 4.25 ahead of Malinin.
“I was quite worried about my jumps heading into this competition,” Uno said. “But I was able to get through my program with no major mistakes and am happy with the result.”
Cha Jun-hwan of South Korea was third with 99.64.
Skating to “I Put A Spell On You,” Malinin received 100.38 points after a powerful routine that featured a quadruple lutz, triple toeloop combination, a quad toeloop and a triple axel.
“I’ve been working for this moment my whole life,” Malinin said. “It was an amazing moment for me. This gives me a lot of motivation and self-confidence for the free skate.”
Coached by his parents who represented Uzbekistan, the 18-year-old Malinin is the only skater to land a quadruple axel, widely regarded as the hardest jump in figure skating, in competition.
Meanwile, Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara became the first skaters from Japan to win the pairs.
Miura and Kihara were first after the short program on Wednesday and finished second in the free skate with 141.44 points, behind defending champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier of the United States.
But their two-day total of 222.16 points was good enough for a 4.68-points win over Knierim and Frazier, who scored 142.84 in the free for a 217.48 total.
Frazier fell in the short program on the triple toe which proved to be costly for the Americans.
European champions Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii of Italy were third with 208.08.
Miura and Kihara won the silver medal at the last worlds. Their personal best of 80.72 in the short program gave them a 6.08 lead over the Americans and a shot at history heading into the free program.
Miura and Kihara started strong with a triple twist, a triple toe-double toe-double axel sequence and a difficult lift. But Miura doubled the side-by-side salchow and touched down on the throw triple loop.
The Japanese team dominated this season with gold at the Grand Prix Final and the Four Continents, and added the worlds.
“After the Four Continents, we worked really hard to have no regrets,” Miura said. “In the short program we were able to show what we’ve been working on, but today in the free skate my weakness came out and I feel regret, but I am happy.”
Other Japanese winners of world championships are Yuzuru Hanyu in the men’s individual, and Kaori Sakamoto, who leads after the short program and is aiming to become the first Japanese woman to win back-to-back titles.
Russia’s typically dominant skating team has been excluded from the world championships for the second straight year because of the invasion of Ukraine.
Japan’s Shoma Uno was set to defend his men’s title starting with the short program later Thursday. ___
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