Honda second after short program at world juniors

STAFF REPORT

Russia’s Alina Zagitova took the lead after the short program at the world junior championships on Friday night in Taipei. Reigning world junior champion Marin Honda is a close second, while Japan junior champion Kaori Sakamoto is in third.

Skating to “Samson and Dalilah,” Zagitova hit a triple lutz/triple toe, triple loop, double axel and earned a level-four for her spins and footwork. The Junior Grand Prix Final champion received a score of 70.58 points.

“This is a very serious competition, one of the most important for me this season. So I was very nervous of course, but the nervousness went away as soon as I hit my starting pose and the program just went from there,” the 14-year-old was quoted as saying by the ISU website.

Honda’s performance to “Smile” featured a triple flip/triple toe combination, a triple loop, double axel as well as two level-four spins and a level-four step sequence. Honda posted a new personal best with 68.35 points.

“In the first half of the season I put too much pressure on myself, but then I realized that I don’t need to do that. Fortunately or unfortunately I met my goal to win already last year. So now I am more relaxed than a year ago,” the 15-year-old commented.

Sakamoto landed a triple loop, tiple flip/triple toe, double axel in her program to “The Artist”. Her three spins merited a level-four and the 16-year-old totaled 67.78 points, also a new personal best.

“I am satisfied that I could achieve a personal best score in such a big event. Two seasons ago and this season I felt the same — I just have to do what I can do. But the difference is that two years ago I thought I’ll never be able to beat the Russian girls, but now I started to think that maybe I can after all,” Sakamoto explained.

Yuna Shiraiwa, one of Honda’s training partners, is in fifth place with 62.96.