THE CANADIAN PRESS
TOKYO — World bronze medallists Jessica Dube of Drummondville, Que., and Bryce Davison of Cambridge, Ont., are third after Friday’s free skate at the NHK Trophy.
Dube and Davison posted a score of 55.24, about two points back of Americans Rena Inoue and John Baldwin for second but well back of leaders Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China at 63.10.
Monica Pisotta of Barrie, Ont., and Michael Stewart of Mississauga, Ont., sit fifth at 47.78.
The two pairs were the best positioned Canadians after the first day of competition.
Cynthia Phaneuf of Contrecoeur, Que., was seventh among the women at 53.48 while ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., were also seventh with 75.28.
In the women’s short program, world champion Mao Asada produced a season-best score to take the lead. Skating to Clair de Lune, she hit all her jumps at Yoyogi Arena to receive 64.64 points and finish ahead of American Ashley Wagner, who was second with 61.52 points.
"It was my best performance of the season," Asada said. "In practice, I focused on hitting my jumps and was able to do that. After I hit my first two jumps, I was a bit nervous and that affected my spiral sequence."
Asada finished second in the Trophee Bompard in Paris and is looking to secure a spot in the Grand Prix finals with a first- or second-place finish in the NHK Trophy, the last opportunity to qualify for the finals in December.
"I was a bit nervous today," Asada said. "I hope I can relax and be aggressive tomorrow in the free program."
Joannie Rochette of Ile-Dupas, Que., South Korean Kim Yu-na and Italy’s Carolina Kostner have already secured places in the GP finals, leaving three spots to be decided in Japan.
.Finland’s Laura Lepisto, also aiming to secure a place in the finals, was third with 59.14 points.
.In the men’s short program, Japan’s Nobunari Oda hit all his jumps, including four triples, to finish in first place with 81.63 points.
."I was more nervous before today’s competition than any other in my career," Oda said. "My practice this morning was not good and this gave me a bit of anxiety."
Oda is coming off a one-year suspension after sitting out last season for a drunk driving arrest.
World bronze medallist Johnny Weir of the United States skated a clean program to finish second with 78.15 points, with France’s Yannick Ponsero third after receiving 74.39 points from the judges.
.Kevin Reynolds of North Vancouver, B.C., was sixth.
.Italy’s Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali took the lead in ice dancing after the compulsory and original events with 89.31 points. France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat were second with 87.47 points.