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Virtue and Moir Take Lead as Excitement Builds in London

Two-time and reigning Canadian ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir danced their way to the top of standings after the compulsory dance at the Canadian Championships last night at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ont.

They earned 43.98 points for their performance to "Tango Romantica." “We’re happy with the way it felt and how together we were. It was a good start to the week,” Moir said. “We’re feeling a lot better at this time of the year and [we are] right where we should be. We want to make it a lot stronger in a month, if that’s the one that gets drawn [for the Olympics]. But where we are right now, we’re happy.”

Virtue said the dance set the tone for the weekend. “Just like it will in Vancouver,” she quickly added. “Over the years, our compulsories have become a lot stronger. As we were coming up the ranks, it was one of our weak points, but we feel more confident in them now. I think this is a great stepping stone. We have a lot of room to grow but nothing that three weeks of training won’t help.”

Virtue and Moir are two-time World medalists.

The fight for second place (and a coveted trip to the 2010 Olympic Games) is a hot one. Less than a point separated the second- and third-ranked teams. Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirer are in second with 37.27 points while Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje placed third a score of 36.87.

The excitement level is already high in London. Along with Virtue and Moir, the three other reigning champions are looking to defend their titles.

World silver medalist Patrick Chan headlines the men’s field. He had a calf injury that forced him to pull out of one Grand Prix event this season. A rusty Chan finished sixth at his only Grand Prix event – Skate Canada.

Chan recently split from coach Don Laws. Chan is now working out of Colorado Springs, Colo. He is being coached by Lori Nichol with technical support from Christy Krall.

Meanwhile Joannie Rochette will be looking to score her sixth national champion. If she succeeds, that will tie her with Jennifer Robinson, who is on hand at the competition (and expecting her first child).

In pairs, Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison will be looking to repeat as champions. The duo claimed the bronze medal at the 2008 World Championships.

Over 90 skaters will hit the ice at the competition which goes through Jan. 17. “The 2010 Canadian Figure Skating Championships are always one of the most important events of the year for every Canadian skater. … Eight of these performances will be previews of what we will see at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver,” said William Thompson, Skate Canada CEO. Fans in London are in for a special treat as they get to witness a little bit of history.”

On tap today are the short programs for men, women and pairs, along with the ice dance original dance.