Sports

Figure skating: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir poised to step up

 THE CANADIAN PRESS

Tessa Virtue of London and Scott Moir of Ilderton compete the ice dance short dance at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Nagoya, Japan on Wednesday.  (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/Getty Images)

Tessa Virtue of London and Scott Moir of Ilderton compete the ice dance short dance at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Nagoya, Japan on Wednesday. (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/Getty Images)

NAGOYA, JAPAN  - 

Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were in second place after Thursday’s short program 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 are on track,” said Virtue, a London 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.

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 take-off which resulted in not the same flow when I came out,” said Duhamel, from Lively, 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 was first.

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 am 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 will be able to land it cleanly the next time I attempt it.”