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Patrick Chan credited "mental preparation" for his season-high score in Friday's short program. ((Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images))

Toronto's Patrick Chan skated his best short program of the season Friday to finish second and keep himself in gold medal contention at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Beijing.

Nobunari Oda of Japan took the lead earning 86.59 points while Chan is only a point behind after a season-best 85.59. World champion Daisuke Takahashi of Japan stands third at 82.57.

"I'm very happy to be in first place while landing my quad," Oda said. "I decided to incorporate the quad into my short program because I had been landing it during practice."

Chan and Oda were 1-2 respectively earlier this season at Skate Canada.

"I'm really pleased because I haven't had the greatest short programs this season," said Chan, the world championship silver medallist. "There's been some self-doubt because it has been going great in training and I couldn't seem to transfer that to competition. So I worked a lot on mental preparation leading into this event and it turned out much better."

"This was his strongest short of the season so far," added Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director. "All three jump elements were solid and the levels of the spins and footwork were all strong."

Chan's best finish at the Grand Prix Final was fifth in 2007 and 2008. He qualified for the Beijing competition by winning Skate Canada and finishing second in the Cup of Russia last month.

"This is a really good position to be in heading into the free skate," said Chan. "I don't have to skate last and the points are really close. I'm just going to into that free skate with the same approach as I did today [for the short]."

Canadian pair falls behind

In pairs, two-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany grabbed a big lead after the short program.

Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Waterloo, Ont., stand sixth.

"All in all the program felt good until I forgot how to skate for a split second," said Moscovitch, who fell executing the side-by-side spins, the last element of the program. "There were little mistakes here and there and we've got stuff we need to work on leading up to the nationals."

Americans lead ice dance

In ice dancing after the short dance, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, both of Waterloo, Ont., are fourth at 55.51 while Vanessa Crone of North York, Ont., and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., are fifth at 54.82.

Both are still in the medal hunt with third place Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin of Hungary scoring 55.98.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S., are first and Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France are second.

Czisny tops women

American Alissa Czisny leads the women's short program. The 23-year-old Bowling Green student who won this year's Skate Canada and the 2009 U.S. title, took the lead with a performance that featured graceful combination spins. She finished with 63.76 points despite an off-balance trip flip.

"After last season, I took a hard look at my skating and made a lot of changes," Czisny said. "I'm very happy with my performance today … my main focus for tomorrow is to skate well and not to worry about the outcome."

Despite an ongoing left knee injury, Carolina Kostner of Italy was second with 62.13 points. Kanako Murakami of Japan was third with 61.47 in her first senior Grand Prix final since moving up from juniors.

Competition ends Saturday with all four senior finals as well as the junior finals in men's singles and pairs.

In junior competition, Taylor Steele of Strathroy, Ont., and Rob Schultz of Morriston, Ont., are third after the pairs short program with Natasha Purich of Sherwood Park, Alta., and Raymond Schultz (no relation to Rob) of Toronto fourth and Brittany Jones of Toronto., and Kurtis Gaskell of Guelph, Ont., seventh.

Andrei Rogozine of Richmond Hill, Ont., is seventh after the men's junior short program

The Grand Prix Final features the top six finishers by points in each category from the six-event International Skating Union qualifying series.

With files from The Associated Press