Canadians poised to win 2 of 4 Skate Canada events

Patrick Chan of Canada skates his men’s short program at the Skate Canada International figure...

Patrick Chan of Canada skates his men’s short program at the Skate Canada International figure skating event in Kitchener on Friday, Nov. 20. (REUTERS, Mike Cassese)

Bill Lankhof, Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:04 PM ET

KITCHENER — As a prelude to the Vancouver Olympics, yesterday’s opening day at the Skate Canada International held loads of promise.

All that went missing was the big finish.

Patrick Chan, Canada’s leading hope for an Olympic medal, landed on his backside on his opening triple axel and that was all it took to drop him to sixth place after the short program last night.

“I didn’t fall that hard. It was a nice soft landing on my butt,” he said with good humour, afterward.

But it put the damper on what had been a remarkable day for the Canadians, who remain poised to win two of four events going into today’s finals.

Tessa Virtue and dance partner Scott Moir cruised into the lead after the compulsory dance. Joannie Rochette provided the afternoon delight with a hold on top spot going into today’s ladies’ final.

“Skating at home can go two ways. You get nice support but with that you also get more pressure,” Rochette said.

A few years ago, that pressure might’ve crushed her. Instead, when the marks appeared yesterday she was a picture of joyfulness, hugging coach Manon Perron.

Chan didn’t have much to be happy about, other than he’s back competing after sitting out the first five Grand Prix events with a quad injury and the flu.

“I got the first one over with. The first one is always tough. It would have been weird if I had done a clean short the first time. It felt good to be back,” said Chan, who scored 68.64, well behind leader Jeremy Abbott of the U.S.

“I had control of the butterflies ... (but) the spins were a bit shaky and I haven’t had the adrenalin rushing through my blood for a while. “

He said his injury was no longer a factor. “No, no, no, no. If I had to worry about my body I wouldn’t have competed. In the Olympic season you just have to plow on.”

Moir indicated at the start of the Grand Prix season that he believed they would be the dance team to beat at the Olympics. There was little to dissuade him of that notion last night after a commanding performance from the Canadian duo.

“I still believe that. We practice with the best in the world and I haven’t seen anything (to change his mind),” Moir said, after they scored 40.69. “Tessa believes it too. She’s just more modest.”

Fabiran Bourzat and Nathalie Pechalat of France are second with 35.55.

Rochette scored a career-best 70.00, well ahead of Americans Alissa Czisny (63.52) and Mirai Nagasu (56.34) but, more importantly, it reestablishes her as a medal contender three months from now in Vancouver.

Rochette rebounded from a shaky short program at the China Cup.

“What happened (in China) was more mental. You have to be able to shut your brains and let your body work,” Rochette said.

Yesterday that body working to near perfection. “It shows me this program can take me where I want to go,” Rochette said.


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