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Phaneuf Surprises Field at Canadian Championships

Cynthia Phaneuf, 21, was in back the spotlight at the Canadian Championships, which are being held at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, Sask., on Friday when the senior competition began in earnest. She placed first in the short program ahead of four-time and reigning champion Joannie Rochette.

Meanwhile, Patrick Chan took the lead in the men's event at the 2009 national competition. In ice dance event, reigning champions Tessa Virtue, 19, and Scott Moir, 21, took a comfortable lead while in pairs Meagan Duhamel, 23, and Craig Buntin, 28, put down an outstanding performance to win the short program.

Phaneuf, the 2004 Canadian champion, scored 55.16 points to win the short program, contested on her birthday. "It feels good for my (21st) birthday. Even if I know I did make a mistake in my program, I was just feeling so good on the ice and having so much fun on my birthday," Phaneuf said. "This was the best gift that I could give myself."

Phaneuf fell on a planned triple Lutz-double toe loop combination.

Rochette, 23, finished a close second with 53.58 points. She struggled, falling on a triple Lutz and singling a planned double Axel. She also under-rotated a triple flip-triple toe combination.

"It was the same disaster (as the GP final) but not really," Rochette said. "In the final, I popped my triple jump and did the Axel. Here, I popped the Axel and rotated my triple jumps. ... I really want to keep the title. I'm confident for tomorrow but still mad at myself for today."

Amélie Lacoste, 20, finished just .03 points behind Rochette with 53.55 points. Lacoste was the 2005 junior national champion.

Chan scored 88.89 in the short program and held a 17-point lead over Vaughn Chipeur, 24, who was second with 71.89 points. Kevin Reynolds, 18, trailed close behind with 70.00 points.

Chan landed his triple Axel with ease (A jump that had been giving him trouble of late). His footwork was incredible. "I'm not going to complain. Seriously, that is the best program I've ever done," Chan said. ""I was super excited to see that number. Eighty-eight is just great.

"I just have to repeat the exact same thing and I'll probably be a medal contender at Worlds (with it), I would say."

Virtue and Moir held a 12-point lead over the team in second place with 63.76 points in the original dance and 103.09 points in total. Vanessa Crone, 18, and Paul Poirier, 17, were in second with 55.56 points in the original dance and 91.18 points overall. Kaitlyn Weaver, 19, and Andrew Poje, 21 jumped up two spots to third place. They scored 52.92 points in the original dance for a total of 84.81 points.

Duhamel and Buntin scored 65.74 points. "We came here with a plan to do our best short and our best long and we were hoping we'd be rewarded with first-place marks for both programs<' Duhamel sia.d "That's one step done and we have to come out tomorrow and stick to our plan."

Meanwhile 2008 World silver medalists Jessica Dubé, 21, and Bryce Davison, 22 , were three points off the lead with a score of 62.22 points. ""We would have liked to be first after the short," Dubé said. "But we know we can do it and we're going to come back strong for the long."

Mylène Brodeur, 21, and John Mattatall, 25 , skated into third with 55.63 points.