Patrick Chan, Virtue/Moir take early leads at Skate Canada

Patrick Chan

Patrick Chan‘s first skate of the Grand Prix season was clearly the best at Skate Canada on Friday, and he can still improve.

Chan, the three-time reigning world champion, leads after the short program with 88.10 points, more than seven points better than Japanese Nobunari Oda at Saint John, New Brunswick.

Canadian Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir lead the ice dance but weren’t as impressive as American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White the week before.

Skate Canada, the second of six Grand Prix events before the Grand Prix Final, concludes Saturday with the pairs free skate (12 ET), women’s free skate (2:15), free dance (4:30) and men’s free skate (7:10). Universal Sports will have coverage.

NBC and NBC Live Extra will have Skate Canada coverage Sunday from 4-6.

Chan’s short program, to Rachmaninoff’s Elegie in E-Flat Minor, was well short of his world record performance (98.37) at the World Championships in March. He also did not attempt a quadruple jump.

Still, he was the cleanest skater on a night where everybody else was less than perfect in one way or another. His biggest threat, budding Japanese star Yuzuru Hanyu, landed an awkward quad toe and doubled the first jump of a combination for 80.40 points, just behind Oda’s 80.82.

Chan’s score Friday would not have been first at Skate America, where another Japanese, Tatsuki Machida, scored 91.18 in the short program en route to winning in Detroit.

The U.S. contingent left plenty to be desired at Skate Canada.

Three-time national champion Jeremy Abbott landed a beautiful quadruple toe loop to start his program.

He followed it with a double-double combination and a triple Axel where he put his hand down. The 2010 Olympian is in fourth place with 74.58 points.

“I landed (the quad) and then I was like, how do I refocus here?” he told coach Yuka Sato in the kiss-and-cry area. “I just felt a little tight.”

World junior champion Josh Farris, in his Grand Prix debut, did not attempt a quad and singled the second jump of his combination.

“My legs were just so shaky, and I kind of knew going into it, I was like, ‘Oh crap,'” Farris, in eighth with 69.14, said in the kiss-and-cry.

Reigning U.S. silver medalist Ross Miner had a disastrous night, falling on his first two jumps. He’s in last place.

He barely said a word in the kiss and cry, his eyes scanning the floor, and only registered a smile when the crowd offered consolatory applause.

The wait for an American man to put together back-to-back strong skates will last at least another week.

In ice dancing, Virtue and Moir were noticeably disappointed with their leading short dance performance. They had issues with their twizzles en route to a 73.15, nearly three points better than compatriots Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

The Canadians are believed to be the biggest threats to Davis and White for gold in Sochi, though the Americans beat them at the three biggest events last season. Davis and White also posted a higher short dance score at Skate America last week — 75.70.

In short, Virtue and Moir have work to do.

The only U.S. ice dance couple at Skate Canada posted a personal best short dance.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were in third place with 60.92 points. They were fourth at Skate America and are in the running for one of three spots on the U.S. Olympic Team.

Video: Gracie Gold stars in women’s short program

Men’s Short Program
1. Patrick Chan (CAN) 88.10
2. Nobunari Oda (JPN) 80.82
3. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) 80.40
4. Jeremy Abbott (USA) 74.58
5. Takahito Mura (JPN) 73.08
6. Elladj Balde (CAN) 72.35
7. Michal Brezina (CZE) 71.71
8. Josh Farris (USA) 69.14
9. Andrei Rogozine (CAN) 68.31
10. Ross Miner (USA) 66.71

Short Dance
1. Virtue/Moir (CAN) 73.15
2. Weaver/Poje (CAN) 70.35
3. Hubbell/Donohue (USA) 60.92
4. Razanova/Tkachenko (RUS) 59.79
5. Zhiganshina/Gazsi (GER) 55.91
6. Stepanova/Bukin (RUS) 55.63
7. Paul/Islam (CAN) 53.74
8. Guignard/Fabbri (ITA) 52.03

Patrick Chan defends Detroit, inspired by Justin Verlander