Mao Asada, Javier Fernandez top Cup of China short programs

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World champions Mao Asada and Javier Fernandez made successful Grand Prix season debuts, leading the short programs at Cup of China in Beijing on Friday.

Asada, in her first Grand Prix since winning her third World title in 2014, landed her trademark triple Axel clean and tallied 71.73 points. She bettered countrywoman Rika Hongo by 5.94 points going into Saturday’s free skate.

“It went just as I pictured it,” Asada said, according to The Associated Press. “I was nervous before I started. I wasn’t able to skate that well in practice and just tried to use the nervous energy to my advantage. I hope I can carry this momentum over into the free program.”

American Courtney Hicks was third and Russian Yelena Radionova, the World bronze medalist, was sixth. Radionova singled a planned double Axel.

Fernandez, in his first Grand Prix since winning his first World title in March, landed a quadruple Salchow, a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a triple Axel, all clean, for 93.19 points. Watch his program here.

He is 3.15 ahead of China’s Jin Boyang, who landed two quadruple jumps in his short program to beat his previous personal best by 14.75 points. Jin, 18, is the reigning World Junior silver medalist.

Icenetwork.com will stream for subscribers live coverage of the men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance free skates Saturday. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage Sunday from 12-1:30 p.m. ET.

Women’s free skate — Saturday, 3:35 a.m. ET (Asada at 5:16 a.m.)
Men’s free skate — Saturday, 5:45 a.m. ET (Fernandez at 7:31 a.m.)

MORE: Why Mao Asada returned to figure skating