MOSCOW – Canada’s three entries at the season opening ISU Grand Prix event – the Rostelecom Cup- will need strong free skates to get on the podium following Friday’s short program performances.
 
In ice dancing, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the U.S. are first after the short dance with 77.30. Two Russian couples followed with Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev second at 76.33 and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin third at 71.32.
 
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto are in the medal hunt standing fourth with 69.67.
 
‘’This first half of the season we want to improve our performance levels,’’ said Poirier. ‘’And I feel that is getting better despite some glitches today.’’
 
‘’We definitely got some fire in our belly for the free skate,’’ added Gilles. ‘’Lots can change.’’
 
Russians are 1-2 in pairs. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are first at 76.88, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov second at 71.39. Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek of Italy stand third at 68.48.
 
Julianne Séguin of Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que., skated a clean program for fifth at 67.06, less than two points from third.
 
In men’s competition, Nathan Chen of the U.S. landed two quads and leads after the short program with 100.54. Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan is second at 94.85 and Dmitri Aliev of Russia third at 88.77.
 
Nam Nguyen of Toronto stands seventh but at 80.74 he is still in striking distance of the podium. He opened with a successful quad-triple combination and also landed his triple Axel. However he fell on his quad-toe attempt.
 
‘’I didn’t have a very good warm-up so I’m happy with how I recovered from that,’’ said Nguyen, 19, ranked third in Canada. ‘’Obviously the performance could have been better but I’m excited about my free skate which has been going well in practice.’’
 
The free skates are on Saturday.