Japan's two-time reigning world champion, Kaori Sakamoto, topped the women's short program at the figure skating Grand Prix Final on Friday when Mao Shimada became the first back-to-back junior winner from the country.
Sakamoto, seeking her first win at the Grand Prix Final, put in a flawless performance at Beijing's National Indoor Stadium, featuring a triple lutz and triple flip-toe loop combination for 77.35 points, the best score among female skaters this season.
"I managed to give the best performance I could and am really satisfied," said Sakamoto, who won bronze at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. "I want to meet the expectations from people around me but also myself."
Loena Hendrickx sits second on 73.25, and her Belgian compatriot Nina Pinzarrone third on 66.72 at the meet contested by the top six performers from the six Grand Prix series events during the season.
"I've done well until the short program during my previous outings too at the final," Sakamoto said. "The battle starts here. I have to overcome myself. I'll try to keep my concentration until tomorrow."
Japan's Hana Yoshida is fourth on 60.65 and Rion Sumiyoshi fifth on 58.63.
Shimada, meanwhile, rose from second in the junior women's short program to top the podium after logging 138.06 in the free skate for a 206.33 total.
The 15-year-old is the second two-time Japanese winner of a junior title at the meet after Miki Ando, who won in 2001 and 2003.
"It's been my biggest target, and I have a great sense of happiness," Shimada said after becoming the first Japanese woman to land a triple axel and a quad toe loop during the same performance.
She cannot compete at the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo in Italy due to age restrictions.