PARIS — Takahiko Kozuka took the lead at the Trophee Bompard after the men's short program on Friday, maintaining his good form since winning the Cup of China three weeks ago.
The Japanese skater's energetic performance gave him 77.64 points heading into Saturday's free skate. Florent Amodio of France is second on 75.62, with Brandon Mroz of the United States in third place on 72.46 points.
"I was happy to finish without any major mistakes — I didn't fall," Kozuka said. "In the second jumps, I made a minor error."
A slick performance from Kiira Korpi saw the Finnish skater lead the women's short program with 61.39 points.
Korpi nailed her opening triple toe loop-triple toe loop jump and then her triple loop. Only a slight blemish on her flying sit spin negated an otherwise graceful effort.
"It was my best of this season," she said.
American skater Mirai Nagasu was second with 58.72, and Haruka Imai of Japan third on 58.38.
"I am disappointed I didn't do my spins as well as I could have, but these are little things I need to work on," Nagasu said. "Tomorrow I just want to go out there and remember why I love skating and love to impress everyone."
World champion Mao Asada, already struggling for form, continued her slump as she finished in seventh after an erratic performance. She grounded her knee on her opening triple axel, and fell backward onto the ice on her fourth jump.
The ice dance followed later Friday.
In the pairs, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany lead with 66.65 points. Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov of Russia are next with 64.18, followed by Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende of Germany with 54.02.
The Trophee Bompard is the sixth and last event in the ISU Grand Prix series. Next month is the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, which features the top six figure skaters in each discipline.
Korpi can qualify for Beijing if she wins here, but Asada's hopes are gone.
Earlier, Kozuka got the numerous flag-waving Japanese fans going at the Palais Omnisports in Paris by choosing the high-tempo "Soul Medley" by Orin Isaacs to accompany his performance.
"I may look quiet on the outside, but I'm quite diverse on the inside," Kozuka said. "One of my goals is to show more personality this season."
Local favorite Brian Joubert, who won the Trophee Bompard in 2006, was a disappointing fifth after a nervy performance punctuated by a couple of awkward landings.
Mroz, second behind Kozuka at the Cup of China, is still aiming for his first senior Grand Prix final appearance.
"Making the final would be amazing. I made it in the juniors and 'medalled,'" Mroz said. "My short went well; there was some things I had to fight for, but I got the quad (toeloop-triple toeloop) done. Comparing to the Cup of China, my levels were a lot better today."
With the world championships looming in March in Tokyo on home ice, Asada needed to bounce back following dismal performances from the Olympic silver medallist at the Japan Open and the NHK Trophy.
Asada looked dejected as she skated off the ice with her hands on her hips, and received little comforting from new coach Nobuo Sato as she waited for her score of 50.10.
Asada, who won silver at the Vancouver Olympics, parted ways with Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova and has struggled to adapt to Sato, who previously worked with former world champion Miki Ando.
At the Japan Open last month, Asada put on her worst free skate performance since she started her senior career five years ago, missing a triple axel during her program to Franz Liszt's "Liebestraum." She also fell twice at the NHK Trophy to finish eighth.
"Of course I'm not glad to see her make mistakes because I know how fabulous (a) skater she is," Korpi said.
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