• Kyodo

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Takahiko Kozuka placed fifth as Frenchman Brian Joubert surged into the lead in the men’s short program at the World Figure Skating Championships on Wednesday.

Kozuka skated a solid if unspectacular program, cleanly completing all of his jumps to earn 79.35 points at Staples Center, while 2007 world champion Joubert heads into Thursday’s free program on top with a score of 84.40.

“I’m glad I was able to deliver a solid skate,” said Kozuka, who won his first Grand Prix title at the season-opening Skate America in October.

“I was tilting on my third jump and when I jumped I thought my heart was going to pop out. Hopefully I can just make up for the points I didn’t get in the free skate.”

Joubert stumbled on an opening quadruple but regrouped to lead American Evan Lysacek (82.70) and Canadian Patrick Chan (82.55).

Elsewhere for Japan, Nobunari Oda crashed into the boards after taking a tumble and closed in seventh place with 76.49 points, while Takahito Mura had a personal best score of 70.35 on his debut at the worlds and placed 13th.

“This is an event I normally watch on television so I was nervous,” said Mura. “I just hope I can skate without any mistakes in the free program.”

Yuko Kawaguchi became the first Japanese-born skater to win a pairs medal at the worlds since Kyoko Ina in 2002, when she partnered Russian Alexander Smirnov to the bronze.

Kawaguchi, who took Russian citizenship in January, and Smirnov had 186.39 points, while defending champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany won the gold with 203.48. Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao of China took the silver with 186.52.

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