Olympics champs Virtue, Moir on top at Skate Canada
Chan 1st in men's while Duhamel, Radford lead pairs
The fans spotted them the moment they stepped onto the ice for the group warmup, and the cheering barely let up.
More than two years after their silver medal skate at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir made a triumphant return — finally — on Friday, winning the short dance at Skate Canada International. It was a moment not lost on anybody.
"The feeling out there today was right where we wanted it to be," Moir said. "The fans were electric for us, and that was a truly special moment. Technically we have to work on getting a little bit stronger, but we're right where we want to be at this time of year."
CBC's skating insider Pj Kwong offers her assessment of Canadian skaters at this weekend's event:
Virtue and Moir, who won Olympic gold in Vancouver then silver in Sochi before stepping away from competition, scored 77.23 points with their program to music by Prince, and take a one-point lead over Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates into Saturday's free dance.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto were third.
Chan 'comfortable' in short program
Patrick Chan won the Skate Canada short program Friday night, and Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva took the women's lead at Hershey Centre.
Chan fell on his triple Axel but his beautiful quad toe loop to open the program was enough to secure him first place. Skating to The Beatles' "Dear Prudence" and "Blackbird," he scored 90.56 points.
"Comfortable," Chan said. "The jumps didn't turn out to be feeling the way they did in practice, but that's normal jitters and adrenaline from being in competition."
Japan's Takahito Mura was second at 81.24, followed by Canada's Kevin Reynolds at 80.57, and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan at 79.65.
Medvedeva, the world champion, had 76.24 points. Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond was second with 74.33, followed by Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamysheva at 66.79, and Japan's Rika Hongo at 65.75.
Earlier Friday, Canada's two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford easily won the pairs short program, while Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch were third.
Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, from Balmertown, Ont., debuted their new throw triple Axel in their short program to Seal's "Killer," to score 78.39 points. China's Yu Xiaoyu and Zhang Hao sit in second.
The Canadians have a throw quad Salchow in their long program, but rules don't allow for quads in the pairs short event.
"We thought 'Okay now, how can we increase our base value of the short without a quad, and we already do the hardest jump [side-by-side triple Lutz,] the only way was to learn the hardest throw triple which is the triple Axel," Duhamel said.
"We only learned to throw single Axel in March, it hasn't even been a year since we learned a single, so to already be able to land the triple and do it in competition is a huge accomplishment for us.
"We want to just keep pushing ourselves and pushing the sport."
Pushing themselves keeps things fresh, Radford added.
"Meagan and I have always said we find skating fun, day in and day out," he said. "Probably the reason I think is because we push ourselves day in and day out, and if we were just doing the same elements year after year, it would get boring. It's challenging but it's fun for us to keep pushing the sport like this."
Osmond's comeback continues
It seems like Kaetlyn Osmond has already endured a career's worth of injuries at just 20 years old.
But the two-time Canadian champion is feeling better than she has in years, and was second in the women's short program Friday at Skate International, writing her comeback story with three huge triple jumps in a powerful skate to Edith Piaf's "Sous le Ciel de Paris."
The Marystown, N.L., native scored 74.33 points to top her previous best score set way back at the 2013 world championships.
Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva, the 2016 world champion, is the leader going into Saturday's long program with 76.24.
Alaine Chartrand of Prescott, Ont., was sixth.
Osmond, who burst onto the skating scene with a bronze medal at the 2012 Canadian championships when she was just 16, was sidelined for the 2014-15 season with a gruesome broken leg. Her broken fibula required a plate and seven screws to stabilize.
She was shaky in her comeback last season, finishing 11th at Skate Canada last year, falling four times in her long program.
"I think it shocked me a little bit," she said, on the difficulties of her comeback. "Definitely last year at Skate Canada it hit me a little hard the way that I competed. But it was an eye-opener and it did prove to me that it isn't going to be easy. I knew I had a long road ahead of me.
"Now that I've got that under my belt, I got the training under my belt, I feel a lot better this year."
Osmond, who won Skate Canada in 2012, would require two surgeries on her leg, the second to remove the kitchen drawer's worth of hardware. There were times, she said, she wondered if she'd ever be back at top form.
"When I was at my complete worst, it was a question of would I be able to come back," she said. "But since I've been back and since I've been able to perform again and to practise great again, it's never been a doubt in my mind as to why I came back.
"Each day I find something new to love about this sport that I never would have known if I didn't go through everything I did."
The Friday night session at the Hershey Centre will feature Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who are competing in their first major international event in two years, and Patrick Chan, who is taking aim at another Skate Canada title.