SEOUL – Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michae Marinaro placed first in Thursday’s pairs short program ahead of two Chinese couples, including the reigning world champions, to open the ISU Four Continents figure skating competition.

The Canadians confidently skated to Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain”, hitting a triple twist, throw triple loop and side by side triple toe. The ISU Grand Prix Finalists collected a level four for the lift and the side by side spin and posted a personal best of 76.36 points.

“There are definitely a few elements we can execute better,” said Moore-Towers, from St. Catharines, Ont. “But we achieved our goal to deliver a better performance than at nationals (last month).”

China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin are second at 75.96 while two-time and reigning world champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, stand third at 73.17.

“We’re never aiming for second,” said Moore-Towers. “It’s always the goal for us to skate our best and if that lands us on top, so be it.”

Evelyn Walsh of London, Ont., and Trennt Michaud of Trenton, Ont., are sixth and Lubov Ilyushechkina of Toronto and Charlie Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que., are eighth.

“We had to fight for some things but we are happy with how it went,” said Michaud. “We worked well together and used each other’s energy.”

In ice dancing, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto are also in a tight battle standing third after the rhythm dance with a season’s best 83.92 behind two American couples. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue lead at 85.95 and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are second at 85.76.

Gilles/Poirier completed level-four twizzles and a level-four rotational lift in their upbeat program to “Mack and Mabel”

“We’re just very pleased that this program has been constantly improving over the course of the season,” said Poirier. “We need to go out in the free dance and skate to the best of our abilities. Our free dance has been really successful for us this year.”

World junior champions Marjorie Lajoie of Boucherville, Que., and Zachary Lagha of St-Hubert, Que., are fifth and Carolane Soucisse of Chateauguay, Que., and Shane Firus of North Vancouver sixth.

“Right now we’re just focusing on the performance and the rest will come,” said Lagha. “We were really in the moment today. It was good.”

Rika Kihira of Japan leads the women’s competition after the short program. Alicia Pineault of Varennes, Que., is 10th, Emily Bausback of Vancouver 14th and Alison Schumacher of Tecumseh, Ont., 18th.

“It was close to my season’s best in terms of points,” said Pineault. “I was disappointed I wasn’t able to do the triple-triple because it has been consistent all season.”

Competition continues through to Sunday.

Full results: ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships 2020

Photo credit: ISU