Canada's Lajoie, Lagha two points out of third after rhythm dance at NHK Trophy

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TOKYO — Canada's Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha are within striking distance of the medal podium after Friday's rhythm dance at the NHK Trophy figure skating Grand Prix.

Russian world champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov are the leaders heading into Saturday's free dance with 86.33 points. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates are second (86.02), while Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain are third (76.43).

Lajoie, from Boucherville, Que., and Lagha, from Saint-Hubert, Que., are fifth with a season's best 74.45.

Japan's Shoma Uno edged American Vincent Zhou to take the lead after the men's singles short program.

Uno opened with a quad flip and then landed a quad toe as part of a planned combination jump but could only manage a double toe instead of a triple toe on the second element.

The Olympic silver medalist also landed a triple Axel and finished with 102.58 points.

“That’s a jump I know I can do so it’s a bit disappointing,” Uno said of the combination jump. “The free skate (Saturday) will be twice as hard as the short program so I will have to be at my best.”

Canada's Nam Nguyen is 10th after a costly mistake -- he doubled his planned quadruple Salchow.

Skating first in the final group, Zhou landed a quad Lutz-triple toe combination as well as a quad Salchow and a triple Axel for a season-best 99.51 points. The 2019 world bronze medalist is coming off his first Grand Prix title at Skate America, where he upset favorite Nathan Chen.

Zhou’s last two jumps were slightly underrotated.

“Actually, I felt a little bit shaky. My legs were a little bit nervous, and I think that was reflected in the quality of some of my spins and my triple Axel,” Zhou said. “I definitely understand why I didn’t reach 100 points, but overall I’m pretty happy with my performance. I think it is a good point to move on to tomorrow.”

Cha Jun-hwan of South Korea, who opened with a quad Salchow, was third with 95.92 points.

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu was forced to withdraw because of a right ankle injury.

In the women’s short program, defending champion Kaori Sakamoto led a 1-2 finish for Japan.

Skating to “Now We Are Free” from “Gladiator,” Sakamoto landed a triple Lutz, a double Axel and a triple flip-triple toe combination to score a season-best 76.56 points.

“I was able to skate cleanly and I was very calm throughout,” Sakamoto said. “I was quite nervous and felt like I wasn’t well grounded, but during the warmup, I was able to get my usual jumps back and I was able to realize that I was back to my normal self.”

Mana Kawabe landed the only triple Axel of the women’s short program and followed that with a triple Lutz-triple toe and a triple flip for a personal-best 73.88 points.

South Korea’s You Young fell on her opening triple Axel but recovered with a triple Lutz-triple toe and a triple flip for 68.08 points.

American teenager Alysa Liu also fell on her opening triple axel and finished her short program in fourth place with 67.72 points.

Skate America sliver medalist Daria Usacheva of Russia withdrew from the event after a bad fall in warmup.

World champions Anastasia Mishina and Alexander Galliamov of Russia skated to the lead in the pairs short program after receiving 78.40 points. Teammates Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov were second with 75.78, followed by Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan with 73.98.

Evelyn Walsh of London, Ont., and Trennt Michaud of Brantford, Ont., are sixth at 56.97, a two-point improvement over their score from Skate America in October.

The NHK Trophy wraps up on Saturday. The next ISU Grand Prix event is the Nov. 19-21 Internationaux de France.

The Associated Press

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