November 06, 2015

BEIJING (AP) Three-time world champion Mao Asada made a strong return to the Grand Prix series by finishing first in the women's short program at the Cup of China on Friday.

The Japanese skater executed her trademark triple axel to open her routine, and topped the short program with 71.73 points, comfortably ahead of Rika Hongo of Japan, who was second with 65.79. Courtney Hicks of the United States was third with 62.38.

''It went just as I pictured it,'' Asada said. ''I was nervous before I started. I wasn't able to skate that well in practice and just tried to use the nervous energy to my advantage. I hope I can carry this momentum over into the free program.''

Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, took a year off from competitive skating but announced in May she would make a comeback.

Anna Pogorilaya of Russia, the 2015 European bronze medalist, was fourth, followed by Zijun Li of China. World bronze medalist Yelena Radionova under-rotated a triple toe loop and lay sixth.

World champion Javier Fernandez of Spain topped the men's short program with 93.19 points in his season debut. Boyang Jin of China, who cleanly executed a rare quad lutz-triple toe loop combination, was second with 90.05, while Sergei Voronov of Russia was third with 80.99.

The women's and men's events conclude with the free skate on Saturday. The Cup of China is the third event of the International Skating Union's Grand Prix series.

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy led after the ice dance short program with 66.39 points. Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States, the 2015 world silver medalists, were second with 65.36, followed by Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin of Russia with 63.54.

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