Golden comeback for Virtue and Moir; Séguin and Bilodeau win pairs

PIERREFONDS, Que. – Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir completed a triumphant return to competition on Saturday winning the gold medal in ice dancing at the 2016 Autumn Classic International.

It was also a golden return for Julianne Séguin of Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que., in pairs. Alaine Chartrand of Prescott, Ont., added a silver in women’s competition.

In their first competition since a silver medal performance at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Virtue and Moir totalled 189.20 points, just under two points from their personal best. Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker of the U.S. were second at 160.50 and Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen of Denmark third at 152.00.

‘’We are so pleased with how we skated,’’ said Moir, from Ilderton, Ont. ‘’I had to work a lot harder than I have in the past three weeks for this program just to get through it. That was just nerves and pressure that comes with this quote-unquote comeback.’’

‘’What’s so exciting about our material this season is that it has so much room to grow,’’ added Virtue, from London, Ont. ‘’We’ve been really focused on the technical side. Now it’s a great opportunity in the next little while to get back to the emotional connection.’’

Carolane Soucisse of Chateauguay, Que., and Shane Firus of Barrie, Ont., were seventh and Haley Sales of Burnaby, B.C., and Nikolas Wamsteeker of Langley, B.C., ninth.

In pairs, Séguin and Bilodeau took the title with 208.30. Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès of France followed at 198.90, Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran of the U.S. were third at 173.62 and Camille Ruest of Rimouski, Que., and Drew Wolfe of Montreal, Que., were fourth at 159.28.

‘’For our first competition since nationals (January 2016) it was a success,’’ said Séguin. ‘’We really wanted to have a strong start to the season.’’

In their first season at the senior level last winter, they won two Grand Prix medals. However just prior to the world championships, Séguin was injured in training and the pair didn’t go to Boston.

‘’There’s always a certain worry when you comeback from an injury,’’ said Bilodeau. ‘’We felt today we picked up where we left off and will continue to progress. This is preparatory competition for us but it gives us a big boost in confidence.’’

Chartrand made a spectacular comeback to nearly snare the gold in women’s competition. She jumped from sixth after the short program producing the best score in the free skate to rocket up the standings.

Mirai Nagasu of the U.S. won the gold medal with 189.11 points, Chartrand earned 186.11 and Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan took the bronze with 172.46.

‘’To have a long program like this at my first international this season is a really good starting place,’’’ said Chartrand. ‘’It’ll only get better. I felt in both programs I really attacked everything and I kept that fighting attitude all the way through.’’

Michelle Long of Newmarket, Ont., was 11th and Larkyn Austman of Coquitlam, B.C., 12th.

In men’s competition, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan won the gold medal decisively with 260.57 points.

Keegan Messing of Sherwood Park, Alta., was fourth and Bennet Toman of Brampton, Ont., fifth.

Full results: 2016 Autumn Classic International.

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