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Alina Zagitova leads in figure skating season debut

Figure Skating - Winter Olympics Day 14

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 23: Alina Zagitova of Olympic Athlete from Russia competes during the Ladies Single Skating Free Skating on day fourteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 23, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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Alina Zagitova opened her season in a familiar place -- comfortably atop the leaderboard -- at a lower-level event in Germany.

Zagitova, who in PyeongChang became the second-youngest Olympic singles figure skating champion after Tara Lipinski at age 15, is competing internationally for the first time since placing a shocking fifth at the world championships in March.

The Russian was clean Thursday in her short program at Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, tallying 79.93 points. It’s the highest score in the world in the early season.

Zagitova landed a triple Lutz-triple loop combination, a double Axel and a triple flip. Video is here.

Zagitova leads Belgian Loena Hendrickx by a whopping 8.43 points. American Mariah Bell is fourth. The free skate is Friday. Full results are here.

The Grand Prix series, the sport’s top-level regular season, begins at Skate America in three weeks in Everett, Wash.

With world champion Kaetlyn Osmond taking the season off, Zagitova and Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva are the clear leading women. They trained together through PyeongChang, after which Medvedeva left Russia to work under two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser in Toronto.

However, U.S. champion Bradie Tennell upset Medvedeva at a lower-level event in Canada last week.

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