SAITAMA, Japan, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Japan's Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara scored a personal best of 80.72 points to lead the pairs short program at the World Figure Skating Championships here on Wednesday.
Miura and Kihara enjoyed a 6.08-point advantage over defending world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier of the United States, who collected 74.64 points.
Italian tandem Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii were third with 73.24 points.
Miura and Kihara finished second in last year's World Championships, but beat Knierim and Frazier in the Grand Prix Final to win Japan's first-ever pairs gold at the event.
China's Olympic champions Han Cong and Sui Wenjing, who won the title when the worlds were held here in 2019, skipped the event for the second time in a row. The duo have not competed since their epic victory in last year's Beijing Winter Olympics, prompting speculation that they would announce their retirement soon.
Zhang Siyang and Yang Yongchao, the only Chinese entry in the event, qualified for Thursday's free state by finishing 20th out of 23 pairs, scoring 50.32 points.