Nakano in second after short program

Compiled From Kyodo, AP

NANJING, China — Yukari Nakano overcame a shaky start to place second behind American Emily Hughes after the women’s short program at the Cup of China on Thursday night.

News photo Yukari Nakano performs during the short program at the Cup of China in Nanjing on Thursday night. Nakano
is in second place heading into Saturday’s free skate.

Nakano, winner of last year’s NHK Trophy, failed to complete her first two jumps but recovered to skate an otherwise error-free program and earn 54.90 points.

“I realized when I came down that I hadn’t gotten enough spin on my first jumps,” said Nakano, who did not compete at the Turin Winter Olympics.

“I can skate better so that was a bit frustrating but I managed to turn things around for the rest of the skate.”

Former European champion Julia Sebestyen of Hungary placed third with 52.82 points and Nakano’s compatriot, Aki Sawada, was fourth with 49.98.

Mai Asada finished in eighth place with 47.26.

Hughes, the sister of 2002 gold medalist Sarah Hughes, skated a clean program to the music of “Carmen.”

She used a less difficult combination to move into first after just a fifth-place showing in the short program at Skate America two weeks ago.

“My combination was questionable at Skate America,” Hughes said. “My triple lutz combination has not been as good as it could be, so we decided to change the combination to the (triple) flip hoping that it would get a higher score and it did.”

“I already did this program once and I knew the parts I had to focus on and I was really happy the way it turned out,” Hughes said.

She knows what she will have to do next to stay in first.

“Do another one of those,” Hughes said pointing back to the ice where she did the near-perfect short program. “I am hoping to put out a similar program (like) what I did today.”

The women’s free skate event is Saturday.

Olympic ice dance silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto of the United States opened their competitive season by stumbling into second place.

The Americans finished second following the compulsory dance with a slight error that gave them 36.75 points, behind Russian couple Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin with 36.86.

Domnina and Shabalin were ninth at the Olympics and seventh at the worlds.

Third place went to another Russian duo, that of Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, with 31.61.