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Russian pair, Japanese singles snag shorts at NHK

Volosozhar, Trankov dominate again; Takahashi, Asada top fields
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Five-time Japanese champion Daisuke Takahashi put together a dream performance, bouncing back from his fourth-place showing at Skate America with a personal-best 95.55 points. -Getty Images

The 2013 NHK Trophy kicked off in Tokyo on Friday with the pairs, men's and ladies short programs.

Invincible Volosozhar, Trankov rule pairs again

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia skated to the lead in the pairs short program, with two Chinese couples -- Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, and Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang -- following in second and third, respectively.

Volosozhar and Trankov put out a confident performance of their "Masquerade Waltz" routine, which was highlighted by a triple twist, side-by-side triple toe and a throw triple loop. The world champions earned a Level 4 for the death spiral, pairs spin and footwork to score 82.03 points.

"Today we did a good short program, although the feeling maybe wasn't so comfortable in the last three elements," Volosozhar said. "But, we got a high score, and we are happy with it."

Skating to La Strada, Sui and Han completed a throw triple flip, triple toes and triple twist. The three-time world junior champions posted a new personal best with 70.13 points.

"It was a good short program for us, and we did our best," Han said.

Peng and Zhang's routine to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon included a triple toe, triple twist and two Level 4 elements, but Peng touched down with her hand on the throw triple loop. The Cup of China bronze medalists collected 65.09 points, another personal-best score.

"We had an error today, but we are in third place and got our highest score, so we are happy with that," Zhang told the press.

Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier finished fourth at 58.67 points, followed by teammates Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir with 58.60 points.

Takahashi tops men's field with sensational performance

Daisuke Takahashi of Japan claimed the men's short program, with Javier Fernández of Spain sitting in second place and Japan's Nobunari Oda finishing third.

Takahashi reeled off a quad toe, triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe combination, as well as two Level 4 spins and Level 4 footwork in his program to "Sonatino for Violin" by Mamoru Samuragochi. He racked up 95.55 points, a new personal best and the second-highest score ever achieved for a men's short program.

"Today, I'm extremely happy with my performance, and I haven't been that happy in a while," Takahashi said. "I never expected my score to be that high. I was surprised. But it wasn't about the score; I wanted to regain my confidence [with this performance]."

Performing to "Satan Takes a Holiday," Fernández stumbled on his opening quad Salchow but recovered to nail a triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe combination. All three spins garnered a Level 4, and the reigning world bronze medalist scored 84.78 points.

"I had a little mistake in my quad, but I think this is a great start for me," Fernández said. "It is my first Grand Prix and my first big competition this season. It was a great competition today."

Oda's "Cotton Club" program included a triple Axel, triple Lutz and fast spins, but his quad toe (in combination with a triple toe) was called under-rotated. The 26-year-old earned 82.70 points.

"I definitely wanted to avoid the same mistakes I did at Skate Canada," Oda said. "I know that the judges gave me an under-rotation and an edge call (on the Lutz), and those are definitely things I want to correct."

Adam Rippon of the U.S. is within striking distance of the podium, in fourth place with 82.25 points. Takahito Mura of Japan came in fifth (79.97 points), Sergei Voronov of Russia is ranked sixth (79.80 points), and Americans Jeremy Abbott and Max Aaron finished seventh and eighth, respectively.

Asada, Suzuki put Japan on top in ladies

Mao Asada and Akiko Suzuki led Japan to a one-two finish in the ladies short program, with Russia's Elena Radionova finishing third.

Asada produced a somewhat shaky triple Axel in her routine to a nocturne by Frédéric Chopin and went on to complete a triple flip and triple loop-double loop combination, as well as Level 4 spins and footwork. The two-time world champion scored 71.26 points.

"I really focused to skate like in practice, and I think I improved from Skate America," Asada said. "After Skate America, I was able to work on my transitions and spins."

Skating to "Hymne à l'amour," Suzuki landed a triple toe-double toe combination and a double Axel, and picked up Level 4's for her spins and step sequence. The 2012 world bronze medalist earned a season's best with 66.03 points.

"My toe loop (combination) and my flip were not so clean, but I am happy with my interpretation," Suzuki said. "This is my third competition, and also I controlled my nervousness; I still worried about my jumps, and I think that was reflected in the performance today."

Radionova touched down on her opening triple Lutz but rallied back to nail a triple loop-triple toe combination and a double Axel, and execute excellent spins. The reigning world junior champion picked up 62.83 points.

"Overall, I'm pretty pleased with my performance, although not everything worked out today as planned," Radionova said. "In the second Grand Prix, you have more responsibility; there is more tension as you have a chance to get to the Final."

Gracie Gold of the U.S. landed in fourth place, despite having the same 62.83 points as Radionova. (Radionova's higher technical score broke the tie.)

Valentina Marchei of Italy finished fifth with 61.90 points, followed by Satoko Miayahara of Japan with 58.39 points.

Team USA's Mirai Nagasu finished eighth with 51.01 points.