Japan's Murakami leads 4 Continents after shortUnited States' Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue perform during the ice dance free dance at the Four Continents figure skating championships in Taipei, Taiwan, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Japanese figure skater Kanako Murakami led the women's short program on Thursday at the Four Continents, a tournament she was initially reluctant to attend.
Murakami gracefully executed a double triple toe jump and a triple flip jump that put her at the top of a tightly contested race with 64.73 points, just ahead of Li Zijun of China on 62.84 and fellow Japanese Haruka Imai at 62.72.
Murakami was on her way to her first Winter Olympics and said the Four Continents was building her confidence and refining her program.
''I didn't want to come to the Four Continents but now I'm glad I came here,'' she said. ''Of course there are things that can be improved.''
In ice dance, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States overwhelmed the competition in the free dance to win the gold medal by almost five points.
They scored 97.20 in the free, nearly six points better than second-place Piper Gilles and Paul Poirer, and left the Canadians with the silver. Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton of the United States retained third place.
''We've learned a tremendous amount about our partnership this season,'' Hubble said. ''I feel that we finally have proven ourselves as a strong consistent team that deserves to be at the top.''