OSAKA, Japan (AP) — Two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan re-introduced her trademark triple axel to take a comfortable lead over compatriots Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami on Saturday at the figure skating Four Continents.
Asada hadn't attempted the triple axel in the four events she won this season, but did so on Saturday to finish the short program with 74.49 points. Suzuki finished second with 65.65 points while Murakami was third with 64.04.
Skating to "I got Rhythm," Asada's performance thrilled the capacity crowd at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium and put her in a good position to regain the title she lost at last year's Four Continents to Ashley Wagner of the United States.
The inclusion of the triple axel will also give Asada a boost heading to the world championships in London, Ontario, next month. She has been struggling with the triple axel since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics but had no problems with it on Saturday.
"I've been saying I will include the triple axel at some point and was glad I did it today," Asada said. "I wasn't really sure it would be at this competition but I felt good in practice so decided this was the time to attempt it and I was very pleased with the result.
Suzuki hit all her jumps in a lively routine to the "Kill Bill" theme song.
"Since the end of last year my jumps weren't that good," Suzuki said. "But they were much better today and that will give me a lot of confidence."
Cristina Gao of the United States was fourth with 62.34 points followed by compatriot Gracie Gold who had 60.36 points.
The women's event wraps up with the free skate on Sunday. The men's free skate is later Saturday.