Michigan ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White were stellar in their first performance in Detroit in over 10 years, while an American shakeup highlighted the men’s short program at Skate America on Friday night.
Davis and White, the reigning Olympic silver medalists and world champions, scored a first-place 75.70 points in the short dance at Joe Louis Arena (full results below).
They skated to “My Fair Lady.” “Dancing with the Stars” star Derek Hough helped choreograph their programs for the Olympic season.
Their biggest rivals for gold at the Sochi Olympics, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, are not in the field.
The ice dancers followed a head-scratching men’s debut in the first Grand Prix meet of the season.
A Japanese man, but not the one many expected, leads a field of eight going into Saturday’s free skate.
Tatsuki Machida, the least accomplished of three Japanese men entered, looked the most impressive and tallied 91.18 points.
Second place was also a surprise. Illinois’ Jason Brown recorded a hand-over-mouth personal best 83.78 points.
Brown, 18 and a two-time world junior medalist, only made it into Skate America via Evan Lysacek‘s withdrawal with a hip injury Sept. 30. It’s his second career senior international event.
He did not attempt a quadruple jump skating to Prince’s “The Question of U,” landing a clean triple axel and a triple-triple combination while most of his competitors had trouble completing four-revolution jumps.
“I performed like I’ve been training, and that’s really my main goal every time I go out there,” Brown said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Brown is three points clear of third-place Adam Rippon, the 2012 U.S. silver medalist and two-time world junior champion. Rippon put his hand down on a quad.
Reigning U.S. champion Max Aaron stands sixth with 75.91 points after falling on a quad salchow. Aaron has attempted five quads this season and not landed any cleanly.
If the U.S. standings hold in Saturday’s free skate, it will further complicate the Olympic team outlook.
Aaron came into the season as a favorite for one of two spots for Sochi, but Brown’s stock is rising more than anybody else.
Lysacek hasn’t competed since the 2010 Olympics, and Jeremy Abbott and Ross Miner make their Grand Prix season debuts at Skate Canada next week against three-time reigning world champion Patrick Chan.
The favorite going into Skate America was 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi, but he, too, fell on a quad attempt and landed in fifth place behind another Japanese, Takahiko Kozuka.
Skate America continues Saturday with the pairs short program (noon Eastern time), women’s short program (1:30), men’s free skate (7) and free dance (9).
U.S. skaters are ramping up their seasons in anticipation of the U.S. Championships from Jan. 5-12 in Boston. The U.S. Olympic team will be named after that event.
1. Meryl Davis/Charlie White (USA) 75.70
2. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (ITA) 69.88
3. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) 61.26
4. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) 60.71
5. Julia Zlobina/Alexei Sitnikov (AZE) 54.53
6. Cathy Reed/Chris Reed (JPN) 54.28
7. Pernelle Carron/Lloyd Jones (FRA) 54.10
8. Isabella Tobias/Deividas Stagniūnas (LTU) 53.17
Men’s Short Program
1. Tatsuki Machida (JPN) 91.18
2. Jason Brown (USA) 83.78
3. Adam Rippon (USA) 80.26
4. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) 77.75
5. Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) 77.09
6. Max Aaron (USA) 75.91
7. Alexander Majorov (SWE) 74.97
8. Artur Gachinski (RUS) 69.81