Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje lead after short dance at Skate Canada International

KELOWNA, B.C. – Halloween night at Skate Canada International. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje came dressed to the nines, in full splendid costume, and won the short dance by almost nine points.

There was no trick or treat about it. For almost every element they received bonuses of +2 and regrettably, lost a point for an extended lift. But their Paso Doble otherwise took flight, along with some healthy component marks as Weaver embodied a vermillion cape, and Poje the decorated toreador, sported jewel-encrusted epaulets and colourful embroidery up the yang yang. A work of art those costumes were.

They’ve come to the table with elements that are almost all new. “This is a time to push the boundaries and push ourselves and come up with new stuff,” Poje said. “And we’ve done that.”

They’ve renovated lifts. As Poje says: “We’ve put a backsplash on it.”

They’ve coming into this season battle-tested and ready for anything. “We’ve been through everything it seems,” Weaver said. “But that just makes us more confident in our partnership, in that we can rely on each other when we need to. What really matters is that the injury taught us so much about efficiency and really enjoying ourselves.”

The best part: there is still room for Weaver and Poje to maximize their levels. They fell short of a world title last March by only .02 points.

The 2011 world junior champions Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin of Russia are in second place while Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are in third, with only six solid weeks of training behind them. Hubbell underwent surgery for a torn labrum that hampered her last season, but complications ensued. They did not put out the programs on Friday that they had hoped, but it’s a start.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, eighth in the world last year, let slip a chance to finish in the top three when Poirier fumbled a twizzle that featured an outstretched leg. Close to the boards, he couldn’t pull the leg in front of him and it went awry. They got only a level one for that.

The charming Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette, fourth at their first Grand Prix, Skate America, last week, are sitting in eighth place, with a miscue on a twizzle.

Russian women finished first and third in the women’s short program, with 16-year-old Anna Pogorilaya winning the event (with mistakes) and a revived Alena Leonova, 23, finishing third with an endearing version of Charlie Chaplin. She wanted to do it, she said, because men and pair skaters had done such things – but no women. It was a delight.

Ashley Wagner, a two-time U.S. champion is in second place, skating to “Spartacus.”

Pogorilaya chalked up technical points as if they were going out of style with her triple Lutz – triple toe loop, although she stumbled out of a double Axel. Wagner had higher component marks, about 3 ½ points more of them and with 63.86 points, was only 1.42 points behind Pogorilaya.

Leonova is third with 62.54. She, too, had higher component marks than Pogorilaya.

Leonova says she pays no attention to the multitudes of talented Russian skaters much younger than she is. She continues to skate, she says, because she loves it. It was tough for her to miss the Sochi Olympics, but she vows to continue to the 2018 Games in South Korea.

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