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Patrick Chan Soars to the Lead in Vancouver; Pang and Tong Grab Pairs Title at Four Continents

Patrick Chan continues to put down superb performances as the 18-year-old seems to be peaking at just the right time. A jump that was MIA at the Grand Prix Final has now set Chan apart from his rivals. He soared on a triple Axel last night (his hang time was impressive) as the Canadian star skated to a huge 88.90 score and the lead in the short program at the 2009 Four Continents Championships.

“In the beginning, when I got on the ice for the warm up, I actually didn’t feel the greatest,” Chan said. “I felt not so confident and not so under my legs. I had a weird warm-up [with] some little mistakes … [but] that is what the warm up is for — to make those little mistakes and get the bugs out. When I got on [the ice] for the short program, I felt really solid and under myself, and it showed.”

The first title of the competition was awarded last night; China's Qing Pang and Jian Tong won the 2009 Four Continents pairs crown. Their intricate lifts and superb throws helped them to claim the top spot on the podium with a competition mark of 194.94 points.

Four Continents is a test event for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. It is being held at the Pacific Coliseum, and Chan was clearly the fan favorite there last night.

Along with his beautiful triple Axel, Chan landed a solid triple flip-triple toe combination and a triple Lutz.

Chan's footwork was awe-inspiring. The crowd went wild during his straight line step sequence and rose to their feet even during his final spin. The two-time Canadian champion earned a level four for the three spins as well as for the straight line footwork.

The breakdown of his 88.90 score a 50.30 for the element score and a 38.60 program component score. For the total short program mark, he improved his previous personal best of 81.39 significantly. His score was also the second-highest achieved in the men’s short program under the new judging system. 2006 Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia still holds the record with 90.66 points from the last Oylmpic Games.

“When I have the chills at the end of the program,” Chan said, “I know I nailed it. I had chills.”

Evan Lysacek, who finished in second last night, was impressed. “It was really exciting to see Patrick’s score come up and to know that he had done the (second) best short program ever. He inspired all of us,” Lysacek said.

Lysacek, the 2009 U.S. bronze medalist, skated well last night too and was rewarded with a season-best score of 81.65 points. Japan’s Takahiko Kozuka was third (76.61 points).

Skating to “Bolero” by Maurice Ravel, Lysacek's passionate performance spurred the second standing ovation of the evening.

He nailed a triple Axel followed by a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a triple flip. His spns were fast and well centered. The two-time Four Continents champion was awarded a level four for two spins and a level three for the footwork and the change foot sit spin. He earned a season-best score of 81.65 points (44.30/37.35).

“For me, it was a big step forward from coming out of nationals. I wasn’t sure I was going to be ready to come to this event, just because emotionally for me it was kind of a down moment of my career to lose my national title. I thought I needed some time to work through it, but I thought the most important thing I could have done is take that first step,” Lysacek said.

Kozuka’s jazzy routine to “Take Five” included a triple Axel (he had to fight for the landing),a triple Lutz-triple toe combo and a triple flip. His spins and steps were strong. The Grand Prix Final silver medalist scored 76.61 points (42.76/33.85).

“I was a little shaky on the triple Axel, and I thought it wasn’t too good," he said. "I still had the triple flip, and I needed to keep my focus. ... I don’t know if I can beat that (Chan’s score), but I still have to skate the free program, and we’ll see. The most important thing for me is to skate well.”

U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott fell on a triple Lutz and finished in fourth (75.67 points). U.S. silver medalist Brandon Mroz was fifth (he scored a season-best 75.05).

In the pairs event, Pang and Tong had drawn to last to skate, and they turned in a strong performance to a Tango selection and “Concierto de Aranjuez.” The Chinese pair earned a season-best score of 129.34 points (67.66 element score/61.60 program component score) for their free skate. The compiled a competition mark of 194.94 points to take the gold.

The Grand Prix Final champions reeled off a double Axel-double Axel sequence, a triple toe loop, high triple twist, as well as a big throw triple loop and Salchow. They also produced difficult spins and lifts, receiving a level four for the side-by-side spins, the forward inside death spiral, the pair combination spin and two lifts.

It was their fourth Four Continents title. They had won the title previously in 2002, 2004 and 2008. “We really like being in Canada. Next year the Olympic Games will be held here, and we hope that we can come back here and skate as well as we did today,” Tong said.

“Last year I had some problems with my jumps," Pang added, "but I’ve worked a lot on them and I think so far I’ve been doing quite well.”

Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison of Canada took the silver medal with an overall mark of 185.82 points. Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao of China were third with 174.98.

Performing to “Carmen” by Georges Bizet, Dubé and Davison landed side-by-side double Axels and triple Salchows as well as a throw triple loop. They executed beautiful lifts. The only glitch in their otherwise fluid program came when Dubé stepped out of the throw triple Lutz.

The 2008 World bronze medalists were awarded a level four for their spins and lifts as well as for their backward inside death spiral. They compiled 121.26 points (63.10/58.16), which was their season-best mark. Their total score added up to 185.62 points, and the team earned their first medal at the Four Continents Championships.

“It felt very good. There were some rough spots there, there’s still room for improvement towards Worlds, so we’re looking forward to it. We’re happy with what we did today,” Dubé said.

Davison said: “There were a couple of erros in the long like hitting the boards on the first lift, but other than that it was solid and we’re happy with what we did. We achieved our goal to be on the podium, and it feels nice on that ice, which is really important. We saw how Pang and Tong skated and they were incredible. They didn’t really miss anything at all. They didn’t set one foot in the wrong spot.”

Zhang and Zhang opened their routine to “The Yellow River Piano Concerto” with a double Axel-triple toe loop sequence, but she doubled the second jump. A solid throw triple Salchow, their trademark high triple twist, a toe lasso lift and a throw triple loop followed. Dan Zhang struggled with her jump in their side-by side Salchows. She singled it as she did in the short program yesterday. She also stumbled on the exit of their hand-to-hip lift, but the World silver medalists recovered to produced a level-three step sequence and a level-four pair combination spin.

Zhang and Zhang received 111.78 points (55.54/56.24) and remained in third place with 174.98 points overall. “My partner hurt her knee a year ago. She couldn’t practice before this event," Hao Zhang revealed. "We started skating just a few days before coming here.”

She added: “It is true that my knee injury affected me a lot during the program. I couldn’t practice the jumps and throws much, but we really wanted to come here to get some experience because of the 2010 Olympic Games (here in Vancouver). We think this competition was a good practice for us.”

Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin of Canada finished fourth with 168.43 points. They landed nice side-by-side triple toe loops and a throw triple Lutz. Duhamel fell on a triple Salchow.

U.S. champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker moved up from seventh to fifth; she fell on a triple toe loop. Teammates Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett were sixth while Rena Inoue and John Baldwin dropped from fifth to seventh.

In ice dance, world silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada performed the top-ranked original dance to strengthen their two-day lead. They have compiled a score of 97.30 with just the free dance left on their dance card. U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White sit in second place with a two-day total of 95.85 points while U.S. silver medalists Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates are third with 90.89 points.