Virtue, Moir ‘on track’ in final Olympic tune-up
NAGOYA, JAPAN Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were in second place after Thursday’s short dance at the ISU Grand Prix Final, the last major international competition before the PyeongChang Olympics.
The world champions sat behind Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, who recorded 82.07 points.
Virtue and Moir, undefeated since returning to competition last season, collected 81.53 points while Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the U.S. were third with 78.09.
“The plan is to peak in February (at the Olympics) and we’re on track,” said Virtue, a London, Ont., native. “Our performance was a step up from what we did this season on the Grand Prix circuit.”
The veteran Canadian skaters weren’t concerned about being in second spot.
“Hopefully, we can have another great skate Saturday and build our confidence for the Olympics,” said Moir, from Ilderton, Ont.
In pairs, two-time Canadian world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were fifth after the short program at 72.18 in a competition that’s too tight to call heading into Saturday’s free skate.
“Having those little bobbles can detract a bit and that affected our second mark,” said Balmertown, Ont., native Radford.
The pair made a mistake on their side-by-side triple Lutz and throw triple Lutz.
“The throw was a little bit stuck on takeoff, which resulted in not the same flow when I came out,” said Duhamel, from Sudbury, Ont. “Still, we were committed to our performance, and we felt pretty good about it.”
Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany are first after the short program with 79.43 points. Defending champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia follow at 78.83 and world champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China are third at 75.82.
On the men’s side, American Nathan Chen seized the lead after the short program.
Skating to Nemesis, he opened with a quad Lutz, triple toe loop combination and added a quad flip and a triple Axel for 103.32 points.
“I made a couple of mistakes on the landing of both quads,” Chen said. “But the triple Axel was improved from Skate America, so I’m happy with that and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Japanese skater Shoma Uno fell on the landing of a triple Axel and was second with 101.51 points, followed by Mikhail Kolyada of Russia with 99.22.
“I made a mistake with the triple Axel, which was unexpected,” Uno said. “But I’m confident I’ll be able to land it cleanly the next time I attempt it.”
With two months to go before the PyeongChang Games, Chen said he’s pleased with the progress he has made this season.
“I’ve had to push the technical elements,” Chen said. “Sometimes it has worked, sometimes it hasn’t. But I definitely don’t regret trying. Putting the flip in the second part of my short program has worked for me so far.”
Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan is still recovering from a leg injury sustained during practice at last month’s NHK Trophy and is not competing
The ladies’ event, which begins Friday, won’t include two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia, who will miss the Grand Prix Final because of a broken foot.
Among the medal favourites is three-time Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., who was the silver medallist at last year’s world championships behind Medvedeva.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their short dance on Thursday at the ISU Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan. The world champs from Canada are second headed into Saturday’s free dance.