• Kyodo

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Takahiko Kozuka produced a near-flawless program as the only Japanese taking part in the men’s preliminary round at the world figure skating championships that got under way in Moscow on Monday.

The Japanese national champion had points deducted for under-rotating a quadruple leap, but cruised into Wednesday’s official short program competition with the top score of 165.00.

Kozuka, a winner of two Grand Prix series titles this season, was 16th to take to the ice and took the lead with eight of the 24 skaters remaining, allowing him to reach the short program top out of the 12 skaters who qualified.

“I skated as I would’ve in the official competition,” Kozuka said. “I felt some nervousness, but I was still able to skate well. It’s actually good that I have skated once now, and I hope to maintain my form for the actual meet,” he said.

“Even though this was just the preliminary round, it is part of the competition. I didn’t want to get off to a sluggish start, so I skated with a sharp eye on the main competition,” he said.

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