Japanese skaters dominate opening day of Grand Prix final

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    Japanese skaters dominated the opening day of the ISU Grand Prix final in Turin on Thursday with world champion Shoma Uno leading a posse of three in the men’s short programme while Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara made the early running in the pairs competition.

    Uno, who skated to John Mayer’s easy-going bluesy ‘Gravity’ opened with a thrilling quad flip and finished his jumps with a triple Axel.

    It landed him a season’s best 99.99, just shy of the vaunted 100-point mark but enough to get a big hug from coach Stephane Lambiel, who won Olym-pic silver in this rink in 2006.

    “I want this Grand Prix Final to be something comfortable for both Stephane and myself,” said Uno. “Recently I’ve been able to feel rewarded from my practice, so I feel relaxed and I’m able to find fulfilment from the competition.”

    His outstanding performance left him over five points clear of compatriot Sota Yamamoto going into the free programme with another Japanese skater Kao Miura another seven points back.

    Top qualifier Ilia Malinin of the USA had a dis-appointing evening, turning out of a triple Axel, put-ting a hand down. The world junior champion limped in fifth behind the home favourite Daniel Grassl but ahead of Shun Sato, the fourth of the Japanese. Miura and Kihara, meanwhile, produced a fine performance to win the pairs short programme.

    The top qualifiers were last on the ice and turned in a superb routine to the sound of an Elvis Presley and Marcus Mumford medley of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

    Miura had to work to hold her landing on the throw triple Lutz but the pair, trained by Bruno Marcotte and Meagan Duhamel, held it together to rack up an impressive 78.08 points ahead of Friday’s free skating.—APP