Dube suffers facial laceration at Four Continents

Canada's Jessica Dube required surgery Thursday after she was struck in the face by her partner's skate at the Four Continents in Colorado.

Canada's Jessica Dube required surgery late Thursday after she was struck in the face by partner Bryce Davison's skate in the pairs free program at the Four Continents in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Dube, from Drummondville, Que., was examined by a facial trauma specialist and later underwent surgery to repair a severe cut on her left cheek and nose.

Dube will remain in hospital overnight for observation.

"She has a significant laceration to the left cheek," said International Skating Union medical advisor Jane Moran, confirming that Dube's left eye was not damaged in the incident.

"I was with Jessica at the hospital and she is OK," said coach Annie Barabe in a written statement.

"She's in good spirits and sent her well wishes to all of the other skaters. She's being attended to at the hospital … and is receiving excellent medical attention."

Dube and Davison, the Canadian champions, were skating side-by-side, performing flying camels, when his blade sliced her face on the third rotation.

Dube immediately clutched her face and dropped to the ice, where medical personnel lifted her onto a stretcher for transport.

"It's one of those things," CBC Sports commentator Paul Martini said. "You want to be close [on spins], but how close is close?"

Dube and Davison were the first pair scheduled to skate and, not surprisingly, the incident unnerved their Canadian teammates enough to affect their performances.

"It happened pretty much before we went on," said Craig Buntin of Kelowna, B.C., who combined with partner Valerie Marcoux of Gatineau, Que., to finish fourth overall.

"We are in altitude here and, basically, what you need to do is conserve your energy and relax in the beginning of your program, then push as hard as you can at the end. But when that happened, my partner really, really tensed up and was really, really tight throughout the whole beginning of the program and, literally, ran out of juice at the end."

"Before we stepped out for the warmup, I was in tears when I heard about it and, then, I calmed myself down and put it in the back of mind," said Anabelle Langlois of Grand Mere, Que., who skates with Cody Hay from Grande Prairie, Alta.

"As we got closer to the side-by-side [spin], I began to have a hard time and had to fight my brain to stay focused. We were, definitely, a little shaky at times because of the accident."

Langlois and Hay dropped from fifth place to seventh.

Even the winning tandem of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo from China skated more cautiously following the incident.

"We were [farther] apart from each other," Shen said.

Rochette wins short program

A mere 4.11 points separate first place from sixth following Thursday's women's short program, won by Joannie Rochette of Ile Dupas, Que., with a score of 56.60.

All three American contenders — Emily Hughes, Alissa Czisny and Kimmie Meissner — fell on their opening jumps.

Hughes, though, showed enough presence of mind to make amends later in her routine, tacking an impromptu double toe loop onto a triple lutz.

"I knew I had to do something," Hughes said. "I was thinking on my feet."

Hughes sits second behind Rochette, Aki Sawada of Japan is third and Czisny is fourth heading into Saturday's free skate.

Meissner, the reigning world and U.S. champion,is sixth.

Cynthia Phaneuf of Contrecoeur, Que.,is 15th and Lesley Hawker, from Barrie, Ont.,is 16th.

Americans hit snag in ice dance

Tanith Belbin tore her costume, but untangled it in time to win Thursday's original dance with American-born partner Benjamin Agosto.

Belbin, who was born in Kingston, Ont., but has U.S. citizenship, caught her left skate in the trim of her knee-length skirt, but managed to rip it free while she skated on one foot.

"You had one foot tied behind your back," Agosto quipped.

"You should get higher points if you can do your one-foot section with your foot in your skirt," Belbin countered.

Neither skater lost their composure during the mishap, nor were they bothered by the material hanging down.

"It wasn't a big deal," Belbin said.

"I have to make sure I don't get distracted by it," Agosto said. "She knows the timing and will catch right back up.

"I know she'll get back in step with me."

Belbin and Agosto went on to skate brilliantly, and supplant Canadian champions Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon atop the standings.

"All the edges felt so much more defined than what we had done, even at [the U.S. nationals]," Agosto said. "It felt good."

As for the skirt, Belbin said: "I think I'll just shorten it."

Dubreuil and Lauzon skated poorly, and trail Belbin and Agosto by 0.31 heading into Friday's free dance.

"It was probably the worst we had ever competed," Dubreuil said. "Bad day at the job.

"I just stumbled and was unfocused. We'll just move on to something else and brush it off."

Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., moved up from fourth to third with a solid program featuring level-four marks across the board for footwork and spins.

With files from the Associated Press