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Gilles and Poirier Take the Road to Gold at Skate Canada International

VANCOUVER – The long and winding road led to gold for Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier as they won the ice dance competition on Saturday at Skate Canada International, the second stop on the ISU Grand Prix circuit.

Skating to the Beatles classic, the Toronto duo enthralled the crowd at UBC totalling 210.97 points less than four points off their personal best set in a bronze medal performance at the world championships in March. Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy were second at 200.05 and Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz of Spain third at 192.83.

‘’The free dance was a little more shaky than our short program,’’ said Poirier. ‘’We have some nerves to work through, but this is really a big step forward moving through the rest of the Grand Prix season.’’

Marjorie Lajoie of Boucherville, Que., and Zachary Lagha of St-Hubert, Que., were sixth and Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker of Langley, B.C. 10th.

‘’We didn’t get the score we wanted but that ovation from the crowd at the end that for me was really awesome,’’ said Lajoie.

In pairs, Canadians Vanessa James and Eric Radford came within less than two points from the podium finishing fourth with 187.92 points.

Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China took the gold with 224.05, Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin of Russia were second at 193.08 and Ashley Cain -Gribble and Timothy Leduc of the U.S. climbed from sixth after the short to third with 189.90.

First year partners James and Radford were less than three points off their best score set earlier this month at the Finlandia Trophy.

‘’Aspects of our program grew and improved, aspects of certain elements that we focused on after Finlandia improved but certain other elements need improvement,’’ said Radford.

‘’This is a step up,’’ added James. ‘’A lot of the transition elements are better, but we are still working on getting that clean program.’’

Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Michael Marinaro of Sarnia, Ont., were sixth and Lori-Anne Matte and Thierry Ferland of Levis, Que., were seventh.

In men’s competition, Nathan Chen of the U.S. was the only skater in the top group to deliver a clean program and he won the gold outright landing four quads and totalling 307.18 points. Jason Brown of the U.S. was second at 259.55 and Evgeni Semenenko of Russia moved from fifth to third with 256.01.

Canada’s Keegan Messing struggled in his free skate and dropped from third to fifth overall with 238.34. Conrad Orzel of Woodstock, Ont., couldn’t gain ground with the sixth best free skate and remained ninth and Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., was 12th.

‘’I was pretty disappointed I wasn’t able to give the performance I wanted to today,’’ said Messing, sixth at the world championships this past March. ‘’After my fall I felt a bit shaky but I tried to forget about it. I’m just going to put my best foot forward towards the next competition.’’

Orzel was determined to bounce back after a subpar short.

‘’I was disappointed about my short program, so it was great to come back in the long and do two quad toes in the free skate,’’ said Orzel, 21, in his season debut. ‘’Although there were some mistakes, I was happy with the general performance.’’

Russia swept the medals in women’s competition with Kamila Valieva first, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva second and Alena Kostornaia third.

Madeline Schizas of Oakville, Ont., was eighth, Emily Bausback of Vancouver 11th and Alison Schumacher of Tecumseh, Ont., 12th.

‘’I was really happy with my free program today,’’ said Schizas, 18, 13th at the 2021 worlds. ‘’My coaching team and I made a lot of changes since my last competition to make the second half of the program more successful and that reflected in my performance today.’’

Full results: http://www.isuresults.com/results/season2122/gpcan2021/