SAPPORO - Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu got off to a strong start on Friday by winning the men's short program at the NHK Trophy, the sixth ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating tournament of the season.

Earlier, compatriot Rika Kihira was second in the women's short program in front of a packed crowd at Makomanai Sekisuiheim Ice Arena on Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

They are both in the hunt for a spot at next month's Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy.

(Yuzuru Hanyu)

Hanyu, the two-time reigning Olympic champion, scored 109.34 points, just shy of the 109.60 he posted earlier in the season en route to winning Skate Canada International, this year's second Grand Prix tournament.

"It was a little frustrating because I felt I could have done more out there," said Hanyu of a mistake-free program that included two quad jumps and a triple axel.

"I'm relieved but I know I can be better, so I feel the need for more practice."

Hanyu will take a 17.87-point lead over France's Kevin Aymoz into Saturday's free skate. Russia's Sergei Voronov was third, while Japan's Koshiro Shimada and Sota Yamamoto were sixth and seventh, respectively, in the short program.

In the women's competition, the 17-year-old Kihira, winner of last season's Grand Prix Final, claimed 79.89 points, 5.15 fewer than Russian Alena Kostornaia.

The 16-year-old Russian's 85.04 was the world's best since the judging system was revised ahead of last season. American Karen Chen placed third with 67.21 points.

(Rika Kihira)

"It was one of my highest scores in the short program this season," said Kihira, the defending NHK Trophy champion. "There were components I thought I did well, but at the same time, I thought I need to improve some parts."

She finished second behind Russian 15-year-old Alexandra Trusova at last month's Skate Canada.

Reigning Olympic and world champion Alina Zagitova of Russia placed fourth following an error-marred program. Japan's Mako Yamashita and Yuhana Yokoi were fifth and eighth, respectively.

(Alena Kostornaia)

(Alina Zagitova)

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