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Russian 'Empress' Tuktamysheva draws first blood at Japan skate

AFP / Martin BUREAU Former world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva earned a standing ovation after landing exquisite triple axel and lutz attempts

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.

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