Miki Ando of Japan took the lead in the short program, while Korea’s Yu-Na Kim currently sits in second.
Ando gave a solid performance which featured a triple Lutz-double loop, a triple flip, and double Axel. Though her layback spin was below par, the current World bronze medalist otherwise delivered two good level 4 spins. She earned a seasonal best of 66.20 points for her routine to a modern arrangement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem.
“The triple-triple (Lutz-loop) felt good this morning,” said the 21-year-old, “and my coach and I decided to put it in. It felt slightly off when I went into the air, so I did a double loop. I really wanted to do that triple-triple, but I went on with my program and only thought about nailing my triple flip.”
“I also missed my (layback) spin,” noted Ando. “My left edge slipped. (Going into the Free) I don’t want to make the same kind of mistakes I made today. I’m not going to think about getting on the podium. I just want to concentrate on what I have to do.”
Kim delivered strong spins and footwork in her “James Bond” routine, however, the current World Champion singled the flip and the second jump of her triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination was downgraded. She earn 65.64 points.
“I had a huge fall on the Lutz prior to the performance,” said Kim. “I got a little nervous, but I thought my triple-triple was okay. Even if I missed my flip, the rest of the program was good.”
Kim didn’t realize she had her triple Lutz-triple toeloop downgraded until she saw it in slow motion on the large screen in the Kiss and Cry area.
“Today I fell down during warming up on the triple Lutz,” Kim later told the press. “It was a huge fall that rarely happens – even during everyday practice – which made me strained and embarrassed. I tried to forget it immediately and I think then I was ready to perform, but the shock remained in my body for a long time. So it may affected my triple flip.”
Alena Leonova of Russia came in a surprising third with new personal best of 60.61 points. The current World Junior Champion was called on on her triple Lutz take-off edge, but otherwise delivered strong spins and landed a solid triple flip-double toeloop and double Axel.
“I’m awarding myself a score of ten plus for this program!” said Leonova. “This is a nice present for my coach, who celebrates her birthday today. I didn’t get all the levels I wanted, but there was some improvement. I never had a level four for my layback spin last season, for example.”
“This arena is great,” Leonova said of competing in Tokyo. “This is a very high-level competition with strong competitors. Tomorrow I’ll fight again. I’m already so excited!”
Canada’s Joannie Rochette stumbled on the back end of the triple Lutz-double toeloop combination and her final combination spin was sub par. The current World silver medalist is currently in fourth place with 60.94 points.
“It was better than the last year’s Final,” said Rochette of her performance. “I felt more confident in my program and good overall. I was nervous – just like in any other competition. The Japanese audience was very supportive and I enjoyed skating here. I’ll focus on each element and be relaxed for the free skate tomorrow.”
Akiko Suzuki of Japan finished fifth (57.54 points), followed by USA’s Ashley Wagner (54.26 points).
“I’m happy to be here and quite satisfied with my performance today,” said Suzuki. “I was truly happy to be skating in front of such a big audience. They cheered me on and I had the feeling of skating together with them.”
“It’s exciting to be here,” said Wagner. “The skaters here are amazing, so the level of competition is really up there and it is a good experience for me. None of my shorts have been as good as I want them to be, but still this season I’m planning on kind of building on top of everything. So I don’t want to be perfect just yet, but I was hoping for a little more here. I just have to go home and work harder.”