Italy's Carolina Kostner delivered on her potential to establish a solid five-point lead over her nearest rival Akiko Suzuki in the women?s short programme at the ISU Grand Prix Final.
Kostner, who has a long history of inconsistency in pressure situations, executed a picture-perfect performance in the opener, starting with a solid triple-triple toe loop jump combination and triple loop.
The tightness of scores should produce an exciting final on Saturday.
Kostner admitted to being "quite nervous" after the six-minute warm-up. "I tried to forget about everything and just do it like I did in practice. I?m very happy to finally have done a short with no mistakes," she said.
Suzuki, who won her first Grand Prix gold in Sapporo last month, executed all but one of her elements with confidence. A shaky landing on her triple flip thwarted her plan to tag a second triple jump onto the first.
Like Kostner, Leonova also showed a triple-triple toe-loop combo to open. Kostner was the bronze medallist at the 2011 world championships, finishing just ahead of Leonova (fourth) and Czisny (fifth).
The women?s field was reduced to five competitors with the withdrawal of twice world champion Mao Asada, of Japan. She headed home Thursday after learning her mother was critically ill, and Kyoko Asada died before her daughter returned from Canada.
Three-time world pairs champions from Germany, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, will have to come from behind to succeed in their Grand Prix title defence after a stellar showing by Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov gave the Russians the early lead on 71.57 points.
The Germans also skated well except for her stumble out of their throw triple flip. They were lying second on 69.82 behind the fast-rising couple from Russia, who joined forces just 18 months ago.
The pairs final is also on Saturday.
A shocking spill by Moir left the 2010 Olympic champions with lots of ground to make up on the reigning world champion Americans in Sunday?s final.
Davis and White lead 76.17 to the Canadians' 71.01.
Source: AFP Global Edition