American rising star Ilia Malinin narrowly leads Japanese world champion Shoma Uno in the Grand Prix Final men's competition after becoming the first figure skater to land a quadruple axel in a short program on Thursday.
The 19-year-old Malinin, who is aiming for the biggest international title of his career, scored a personal-best 106.90 to lead Uno by 0.88 heading into Saturday's free skate at Beijing's National Indoor Stadium. Japan's Yuma Kagiyama placed third on 103.72 and Kao Miura fourth on 94.86.
Malinin, so far the only skater to cleanly land a quad axel in competition, had only previously attempted it in his free skate routine. He opened his short program with the jump on the way to registering the highest score in the world for the segment this season.
The Grand Prix Final is contested by the top six performers in each category throughout figure skating's Grand Prix season.
Uno, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic bronze medalist, is aiming to go back-to-back as Grand Prix Final winner after claiming the title last year in Turin, Italy.
He scored his season-best for the short program including a quadruple flip and a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.
"It felt pretty good," Uno said. "I had trouble with the quadruple flip during the six-minute warm-up, but I got it under control in the actual event. I think my step sequence went really well."
Kagiyama, who won Olympic silver in Beijing, is making his first appearance at the competition.
Japan's Kaori Sakamoto, winner of both of her Grand Prix events this season, will begin her bid for a clean sweep in the women's short program on Friday.