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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.

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