Updated: February 8, 2013 7:03 AM | By The Canadian Press, thecanadianpress.com

Virtue and Moir lead Four Continents



Virtue and Moir lead Four Continents

Daisuke Takahashi of Japan performs during the men short program event at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Osaka, western Japan, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

OSAKA, Japan - Canada is off to a hot start at the Four Continents figure skating competition.

Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir posted a personal best score for the short dance on Friday while Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., led after the pairs short program, just ahead of teammates Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto.

Virtue and Moir recorded 75.12 points, which is also the best international score this season. They were ahead of arch rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S., who had 74.68 points. Madison Chock and Evan Bates, also of the U.S., were third at 65.44.

"It felt like it was the season’s best skate, no matter what the score was," said Moir, from Ilderton, Ont. "That’s always the best feeling, especially at a big event like this which we are using to build for the world championships in Canada."

The Olympic champions will be looking to score big at next month's worlds before a home crowd in London, Ont.

"We’ve really focused on the technical aspects over the last few weeks," said London native Virtue. "Just hammering out that polka has been a challenge for everyone this year but a fun one to train. We made a minor adjustment to our side-by-side footwork after nationals and to get a level four for that here was great."

Piper Gilles of Toronto and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., were fifth at 60.20 and Nicole Orford Burnaby, B.C., and Thomas Williams of Okotoks, Alta., finished seventh of 13 entries at 53.70.

In pairs, Duhamel and Radford scored a personal best 70.44 while Moore-Towers and Moscovitch earned 66.33 points.

"Not too many teams have broken that 70-point barrier," said Radford. "It feels incredible. I can’t believe it all just happened."

"Sometimes we’d do these programs in practice and say to each other this could be 70 internationally," added Duhamel. "But that was dreaming it. To do it today in competition puts us at a whole new level."

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch were hoping to score better.

"We were happy with our skate but there are a couple of things we are upset about," said Moore-Towers. "But we are looking to improve for worlds and we left a couple of levels on the table."

Paige Lawrence of Kennedy, Sask., and Rudi Swiegers of Kipling, Sask., were seventh at 48.76.

In the men’s short program, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan held the lead with Han Yan of China second and Richard Dornbush of the U.S., third.

Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., was sixth, Andrei Rogozine of Richmond Hill, Ont., 11th and Elladj Balde of Pierrefonds, Que., 20th.

Reynolds skated a clean program but under-rotated both his quad jump attempts. "I did a really good performance," said Reynolds, competing at his fourth Four Continents meet. "I had a lot of energy right from the start."

Rogozine, the 2011 world junior champion, was making his Four Continents debut. "It was probably the best short program of my career," said Rogozine, 20 who set a personal best 70.58 score. "It was a bit of disadvantage going early (second skater), but for me this is a competition against myself."

Competition continues Saturday with the men’s free skate and the women’s short program.

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