Figure Skating

Virtue and Moir cut short free program at Four Continents

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The Canadian Press
2/18/2011 11:52:31 AM
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TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir spent nearly a year away from the competitive rink only to see their season debut come to an abrupt end Friday.

Canada's Olympic dance champions led after Thursday's short program at the Four Continents figure skating championships, but pulled out just 30 seconds into their free program when Virtue felt tightness in her thigh.

The setback comes four months after Virtue underwent surgery to alleviate chronic pain in her lower legs caused by compartment syndrome. She had a similar surgery in 2008.

"It was nothing related with her surgery, just one of those injuries that creeps in in recovering from that," Skate Canada's high performance director Mike Slipchuk said on a conference call.

"The free dance they're doing is very demanding and definitely takes a higher toll, and today when they started, she just felt with the tightness in the quad, she was just not able to continue."

Virtue and Moir were competing for the first time since winning gold at the world championships last March, and Slipchuk said the injury won't keep the Canadians from defending their world title next month in Tokyo.

"They made the decision at that point to withdraw from the free program because the goal for them is Tokyo and they don't want to push anything at a time that they don't have to, that might cause a setback," Slipchuk said.

Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White, silver medallists behind Virtue and Moir at the Vancouver Olympics, won the gold.

"They have gone through a lot this season," Davis said of the Canadians. "I'm not exactly sure what happened, but we don't really think about it too much. When we come into competitions, we worry about skating our best. When we leave a competition, we're thinking about how we can improve. I'm sure they are disappointed but we are excited and happy with how we skated."

Davis and White finished with 172.03 points after an impressive free skate, easily outclassing fellow Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani. Vanessa Crone of Aurora, Ont., and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., were third, on a three-medal day for Canada.

Earlier Friday, Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., captured silver in pairs for their first international medal.

Olympic silver medallists Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China claimed the gold, wowing the crowd with a precise and fluent skating display to score a season's best 128.04 points for a total of 199.45.

Duhamel and Radford scored 181.79 points while teammates Paige Lawrence of Kennedy, Sask., and Rudi Swiegers of Kipling, Sask., were third with 171.73. Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto were fifth.

Duhamel and Radford joined forces less than a year ago after Duhamel's former partner Craig Buntin retired.

"To have such a huge success so early is amazing, it's a good indication of our potential," Duhamel said. "I think the reason we've jelled so well together is that we're such good friends and our relationship with each other is our greatest strength and really allowed us to improve so rapidly."

World champion Daisuke Takahashi of Japan surged to a commanding lead after the men's short program with 83.49 points. That put him comfortably ahead of Jeremy Abbott of the United States, who had 76.73 points. Japanese rival Yuzuru Hanyu was third with 76.43 points.

Canada's Patrick Chan isn't competing at the Four Continents.

Shawn Sawyer of Edmunston, N.B., was seventh, while Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., was eighth. Joey Russell of Labrador City, N.L., was 14th.

The Four Continents, which features skaters from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania, concludes Sunday.

-- With files from The Associated Press.

Virtue and Moir (Photo: YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

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(Photo: YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)
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