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Personal bests propel Sakamoto, Zhou into first

Men's leader surpasses previous personal best by more than three points
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Vincent Zhou leads after the short program in Yokohama. -Getty Images

Japan's Kaori Sakamoto and Team USA's Vincent Zhou set the pace in the short programs at the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) in Yokohama, Japan, on Friday.


After winning silver at the season-opening event in France, Sakamoto continued the fight for her first career trip to the JGP Final, performing a clean short program worth 65.66 points. Skating to music from The Artist, the 2015 Japanese junior silver medalist completed both a triple flip-triple toe combination and a double axel in the second half of the program.

Sakamoto's teammate, Mako Yamashita, is less than a point behind, earning a score of 64.86 in her JGP debut. Her program, set to Secret Garden's "Nocturne," was highlighted by an opening triple lutz-triple toe that netted the skater 11.5 points.

Russian junior bronze medalist Alisa Fedichkina placed third with 61.13 points. Fedichkina is making her first international appearance since the 2016 World Junior Championships, an event she led after the short program but from which she had to withdraw after injuring her ankle in practice.

Team USA's Gabrielle Noullet finished seventh with 51.44 points in her JGP debut.


Zhou made a statement with his 80.53-point performance to "Writing's on the Wall," topping his previous personal-best short program score by 3.22 points. In addition to three solid jumping passes, including a triple lutz-triple toe in the second half of the program, Zhou earned a Level 4 on each of his spins and his step sequence.

Jun Hwan Cha took the second spot with 79.34 points, nearly five more than his previous personal best. The Korean's A Chorus Line short featured the best triple axel of the event (1.86 Grade of Execution).

Third place went to Alexey Erokhov of Russia, who earned 74.90 points for his soulful performance to B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone."

Making his first JGP appearance since 2011, Zhou's teammate, Emmanuel Savary, finished eighth with 61.44 points.