Battle lines drawn for free skates at 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Keegan Messing is one step closer to a first career Canadian title after placing topping the men’s short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships.

Messing, competing at his eight nationals, tabulated 92.61 points in his skate to Ed Sheeran’s Perfect. Defending champion Nam Nguyen of Toronto is second at 88.04 and Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., stands third at 85.02.

“When I went into my triple Axel I locked eyes with my wife in the crowd and it was like walking down the aisle again,” said Messing, from Sherwood Park, Alta. “The most disappointing was my wobbly Lutz. It’s the most consistent jump I have still I managed to save it.”

There’s a close battle in pairs as well with defending champions Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Michael Marinaro of Sarnia, Ont., leading after the short program with 73.73. First-year partners Lubov Ilyushechkina of Toronto and Charlie Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que., tabulated 71.23 while Evelyn Walsh of London, Ont., and Trennt Michaud of Brantford, Ont., are third at 70.34.

“I’m a little down I don’t usually miss my jumps,” said Moore-Towers. “I think it was just a minor lack of focus that led to an unfortunate step-out. For the most part I was pleased with our elements. We have a good takeaways, I’m just focused on my glaring error.”

Ilyushechkina and Bilodeau were elated with their showing.

“We’re happy with how in control we were,” said Ilyushechkina. “After the Grand Prix we came home and tried to work on our technique especially and we wound up having our best performance of the season.”

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto grabbed the lead in ice dancing, scoring 88.86 for their short dance. World junior champions Marjorie Lajoie of Bouherville, Que., and Zachary Lagha of St-Hubert, Que., are second at 77.26 and Carolane Soucisse of Chateauguay, Que., and Shane Firus of North Vancouver are third at 75.83.

Gilles and Poirier had issues with their costume during their skate.

“It was a really great skate for us and the costume mishap was a distraction that kind of settled us,” said Poirier. “It took us out of the performance for a second and it forced us to regroup ourselves and really focus.”

Lajoie and Lagha were pleased with how they impressed the judges.

“We didn’t want to go unnoticed here and show that we belonged,” said Lajoie. “We know it’s a big step from junior to the senior level so we wanted our skating to be appreciated.”

In women’s competition, Alicia Pineault of Varennes, Que., is the leader after the short program with 63.15 points. Madeline Schizas of Oakville, Ont., was second at 60.66 and two-time national champion Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket., is third at 59.51.

“I’m just happy that I feel healthy,” said Pineault, who did not compete at last year’s nationals. “It wasn’t perfect scenario today but I have great support from my friends and family and that’s really helping me here.”

The free skates are on Saturday.

Information: 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships

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