December 14, 2007 / 10:32 PM / 12 years ago

Kim leads battle of junior figure skating champions

TURIN (Reuters) - South Korean Kim Yu-na heads the ladies competition at the Grand Prix final after a confident display in Friday’s short program knocked Caroline Zhang into second place.

Kim, the 2006 world junior champion and last season’s Grand Prix winner, easily outshone 14-year-old American Zhang, who holds the 2007 junior title.

Italy’s Carolina Kostner, the only European among the women, grabbed third in front of a small home crowd but has little hope of pushing for gold in Saturday’s final free skating event.

Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi scored a high 84.20 with the final routine in the short program to take the lead in the men’s event from Switzerland’s Stephane Lambiel, silver medalist on the same rink at the 2006 Turin Olympics and twice world champion.

American ice dance duo Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, who also gained silver at the Turin Games, moved into first place after the original dance, scoring an overall 63.64 ahead of Saturday’s free dance.

France’s Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder were second with Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia, dressed like 19th century soldiers, third out of the six couples after their version of the folk-country dance.

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany held the advantage in the pair’s contest after the short programe with the free skate also taking place on Saturday.

The Grand Prix had six trials in the past few months with 36 skaters qualifying for Turin, which is holding the finals for the first time.

Writing by Mark Meadows in Milan; Editing by Tony Jimenez

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