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Chan Dusts Off Cobwebs; Phaneuf Takes Ladies Lead

Patrick Chan has cleared off most of the rust, and it is looking like he will snag his third men's title at the 2010 Canadian Championships being held in London, Ont. Meanwhile in the ladies event, Cynthia Phaneuf led after the after the short program with Joannie Rochette sitting in second place.

Chan scored 90.14 points in his short program yesterday, despite a few mistakes. He touched down on a triple flip and downgraded a jump (from triple loop to a double) as part of a combo jump.

Vaughn Chipeur was in second place with 78.87 points and Joey Russell placed third with a score of 74.04.

Having the crowd behind him helped Chan. "I was just like a race horse ready to go. ... Points don’t really mean much to me. It's how I felt going out," Chan said. "I usually don't like skating last but for once, I walked out of the change room ready to go. I actually felt better than ever. I had extra stamina thanks to training at altitude. I had that extra little bit of a boost to give a good performance."

Chipeur said he was in "a good sort of groove" at the end of last season. "I really enjoyed training that program. After the GP season, when training wasn’t really going the way I wanted it to, we went back to that program and it put me in the same groove I was in at the end of last year," he said. "I think it was the right way to kick-start training leading up to nationals and beyond."

Russell said he was pleased that his training paid off. "It felt great to go out and do what I normally do in practice and just to feel completely comfortable out there," he said.

Phaneuf gave a solid performance to score 66.30 and the top spot in the short program. A fall on a Lutz was costly for five-time and reigning champion Rochette, who placed second with 53.99 points. Amelie Lacoste placed well behind in third (53.99).

Canada has two spots in the men's, ladies and ice dance disciplines for the 2010 Olympic Games. On Thursday, officials noted Rochette, Chan and the ice dance tandem of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir had already qualified for the 2010 Games. The second-place finishers at the Canadian Championships will automatically earn the second spots.

"I’m coming here to go to the Olympics and this is my goal," Phaneuf said. "For sure, I’m not thinking about it when Im on the ice but I’m coming here for nothing else than that.

"I think I have more confidence with my long program than if I were tight with third place. But I know I have to skate a very strong long program because Amelie Lacoste is a very good skater, too. My goal is to go on the ice with same mindset I have back home."

Phaneuf won the national title in 2004, however, Jennifer Robinson, a six-time national champion was sent to the World Championships that year. "I wasn't the same person on the ice as I am now. Everything is different," Phaneuf said. "Im not going to say that I don’t want [the Canadian title again], but this is not going to be my first goal. My first goal is to go to the Olympics, not to win the title."

Rochette said she was happy with the program overall but disappointed with her mistake. "It was a good test [to be able to bounce back] and I’m happy I was up to that competitive level," she said. "I want to win this championship. That was absolutely my goal coming here."

Lacoste is more than 10 points behind Rochette. "I'm not focusing on the second spot, just on having a good program and being happy with myself," she said.

Annabelle Langlois and Cody Hay won the pairs short program. They scored 65.47 points. Defending champions Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison came in second (62.87) after taking a hard tumble. Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin were third (62.38).

"We’re obviously not here just for fun," Langlois said. "That’s why we’re here, to go to the Olympics. Being first is great but that just came as a bonus. As far as coming back, we’re really pleased with how we handled it. This was just a good stepping stone for us."

Hay said he is usually, more nervous. But it just felt like such a relief to be out there," he said.

Despite the fall, Dubé said it was good program. "We got back into it … we’re quite happy about that," she said.

The closeness of the competition is great for Canadian skating, Davison said. "It pushes us and it’s going to be one of the driving factors that makes us a country like China, which has had such great pair teams in the last decade. Because we have that competitiveness at home, when you go to a Grand Prix or a worlds, it’s not like you had a walk in the park. You’re ready all the time and you have to be ready here at nationals."

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir extended their commanding lead in ice dance. They compiled 70.15 points in the original dance. After two portions of the event, they have a score of 114.13. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were second with 94.79 points, just ahead of Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier.

"What an experience for Tessa and I," Moir said. "It was a lot of fun for us to skate well, like we've been training at home. That was a big goal of ours, to get that program out and skate it as strong as we have been at home. To skate like that felt really great and to do it in front of a crowd that was so amazing felt even better."

"It definitely felt great," Virtue added. "That's how we've been training it for the past four weeks. What's great is I feel like were just skimming the surface of what our programs can do. The room is there to grow even more, so I think that’s what it is most exciting.”

Poje said he and Weaver were pleased with their program today. "We just wanted to make sure that we went out and performed it like we do in practice, to make sure that we didn’t hold anything back," he said. "That was our main goal and we were happy with how we skated.

"We're definitely happy with how its grown over the season. We made sure that we did all the training necessary and go out and do what we do in practice to make sure we put down the program in a way were happy with

"It felt really great," Weaver said. "We were so proud of ourselves that we could come out and skate free without any reservations. We thought that it helped build the program and we felt the energy of the offence, too, which made a big difference."

Poirier said he and Crone were really excited with our performance. "Every competition, we felt like its built and gotten better and better," he said. "We felt we had a lot more energy and the crowd was amazing. It was great to feed off it and perform the program. We are trying not to focus on points tomorrow. We just want to come out, do another strong performance and really enjoy it again."