OAKVILLE, Ont. – Ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are in first place after Friday’s rhythm dance at the sixth edition of the Autumn Classic International figure skating competition being held this week at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex.
Gilles and Poirier, seventh at the world championships last season, totalled 79.61 points to place ahead of compatriots Carolane Soucisse of Chateauguay, Que., and Shane Firus of North Vancouver in second at 72.70. Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac of France are third at 71.50.
‘’To come here and push ourselves when we are at that tired level is what we need to do at this point in the season,’’ said Gilles. ‘’As the year progresses and we get fitter, we’ll be able to attack the program a little bit more. It’s a dance we really enjoy.’’
Soucisse and Firus said they went back to the drawing board after a self -described disappointing end to their season.
‘’We learned quite a bit last season,’’ said Firus. ‘’We were inconsistent and we decided to go back to the basics in terms of the types of programs we’d like to skate and what style is going is fit us.’’
In men’s competition, two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan stands first after the short program at 98.38, Kevin Aymoz of France is second at 94.76 and Keegan Messing of Sherwood Park, Alta., is third at 89.57.
Messing skated clean to Ed Sheeran’s ‘’Perfect’’ landing a quad toe-triple-toe combo, triple Axel and triple Lutz.
‘’It’s a really new style for me,’’ said Messing. ‘’With this program, when the music starts there’s a wave of calm, my mind instantly goes to my wedding this past summer and how happy my wife and I are together.’’
Conrad Orzel of Toronto landed his quad triple-combo, quad Salchow and triple Axel for sixth at 76.64.
‘’It was a great experience to be out there with the crowd,’’ he said about his senior level international debut. ‘’It’s important for my development, there’s pressure, there’s points for rankings so it’s a great introduction to skating at this level.’’
The women’s competition concluded with Rika Kihira of Japan, last year’s Grand Prix Final champion, earning the gold with 224.16. Two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia was second at 217.43 and Eunsoo Lim of South Korea third at 184.38.
Michelle Long of Newmarket, Ont., was eighth and Véronik Mallet of Sept-Iles, Que., 12th.
‘’I felt great about my program,’’ said Long. ‘’I know there were still some mistakes but that was definitely a closer stride to what I’m capable of.’’
Competition ends Saturday with the men’s free skate and the free dance.