Phaneuf looks sharp

Cynthia Phaneuf smiles after completing the women's short program at the Skate Canada International...

Cynthia Phaneuf smiles after completing the women's short program at the Skate Canada International event in Kingston on Friday. (QMI Agency/Ian MacAlpine)

MIKE KOREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

KINGSTON, Ont. -- Cynthia Phaneuf would like to thank choreographer David Wilson for hitting the clubs earlier this year.

When Wilson heard a Spanish guitar mix that caught his fancy, he immediately thought it could be some great music for a figure skating program.

Phaneuf, 22, a native of Brossard, Que., was the "lucky" skater to get the music -- and she made the most of it in the women's short program on Friday at Skate Canada International at the K-Rock Centre.

Phaneuf had the crowd roaring with a wonderful program, featuring fantastic footwork and a perfect triple lutz-double toe loop combination. Her score of 58.64 points puts her first heading into Saturday's long program.

"I think (Wilson) was in a nightclub going out and he just heard it," Phaneuf said. "He was just like 'Oh my God, somebody has got to skate to that.'

"The first time I heard it, I thought it was going to be amazing and the crowd (was) going to love it so much," Phaneuf p>She was right. Mind you, it helps when a skater nails her jumps.

Phaneuf was all smiles afterward. The crowd started clapping to the beat near the end of the program and she got a big ovation at the finish.

Phaneuf has a slim lead over Ksenia Makarova of Russia (57.90 points). American Agnes Zawadszki (56.29 points) is third.

Montreal's Amelie Lacoste is fifth and Myriane Samson of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., is seventh.

But the story was Phaneuf, who gave herself a big personal boost at the end of last season by finishing a career-best fifth at the world championships.

Annie Barabe, Phaneuf's coach, said the skater needed that result to increase her confidence level.

"Now it was on paper," Barabe said. "She did it and saw the marks."

Phaneuf raised plenty of eyebrows in the Canadian skating community when she won the national title as a teenager back in 2004.

Since then, there have been ups and downs. She missed the 2005-06 Olympic season be-cause of injuries.

Upon her return, she seemed to always play second fiddle to Joannie Rochette.

But at least for the first part of this season, Phaneuf clearly is the woman to watch in Canada. Rochette, coming off her Olympic bronze medal, hasn't firmed up plans for her competitive future. She is not competing in the Grand Prix series.

Phaneuf said she can't think too much about Rochette not being around, but acknowl-edged it's "an honour" to be the top Canadian at Skate Canada.

Phaneuf said she couldn't have even tried such a fast-paced short program back when she started to make noise at the senior level in 2004.

"I was very excited to do this program," she said. "It's a great program and I'm feeling very confident in it. It's different than what I'm used to. I'm just having so much fun doing it. It's a pleasure for me to go out and perform it."

Barabe said Phaneuf has been far more relaxed this week than she was in previous years.

"Everything is (easier). Two years ago, everything was hard coming back from where she was," Barabe said. "We never talk about before. We talk ahead. ... Before is over."

Barabe said Phaneuf is taking it "one year at a time" and hasn't made up her mind on whether she wants to stick around for the 2014 Olympics.

"I know she wants to go back to school," Barabe said. "We'll see."

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Paige Lawrence's mother is grateful her daughter chose figure skating over rodeo.

"Mom has no problem watching figure skating compared to watching my brother ride bulls," the native of Kipling, Sask., said Friday after her and Rudi Swiegers finished third in the pairs short program, making them the top Canadians.

Lawrence's father is a former professional bull rider and now operates a travelling rodeo company.

Lawrence was asked if she is tempted to give the family pastime a try.

"I ride horses, but (coach Patricia Hole) won't let me get on a bull," Lawrence said. "It's on my list. It will happen one day."

Russia's Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze lead the way. Americans Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir are second.

Newly-formed pair Meagan Duhamel of Montreal and Eric Radford of Toronto were fourth. Kirsten Moore-Towers of Waterloo and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto are fifth.

Canadian pairs champs Bryce Davison and Jessica Dube are out after the male skater injured his knee last week.

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There was an excellent turnout at the matinee session with the arena close to three-quarters full.

The one big problem was parking on a Friday morning/ afternoon.

With a lot close to the arena full, a security guard directed traffic to a lot further away on Wellington Street.

There, the pay machines didn't work because it was only available for permit parking in the daytime, a parking services employee said by telephone. Frustrated fans unable to use the machines just walked away and risked a ticket, meaning tons of cars were parked in spots reserved for permit-holders.


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