Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the pairs short program at Skate Canada International on Friday night with 69.57 points. They skated to "Tribute," which Radford -- a pianist who studied at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music -- wrote in 2006, the day after his coach Paul Wirtz died of cancer.
Italians Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek were right behind the Canadians with 69.38, while Sui Wenjing and Han Cong were third with 69.02 at Harbour Station arena.
Radford said he had chills skating to his own song, which he recorded with a 16-piece string section in a Montreal studio last spring.
"It is a different experience hearing my own music, it just creates a deep centred feeling inside of me. . . it's difficult to put into words," Radford said.
Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, from Balmertown, Ont., bronze medallists at last spring's world championships, won despite Duhamel stumbling out of her triple Lutz, and putting a hand down on the throw triple Lutz.
Despite leaving considerable room for improvement, the Canadians -- Duhamel in a floaty pink dress, and Radford in an understated grey shirt and pants -- are way ahead of where they were at this point last season.
"Last year we came to this event, skated a clean short, and got 64, so this shows everything that we've been working towards and improving," Duhamel said. "We started with 64 last season and ended with a 73 at worlds, so this is exactly where we want to be, we want to hit those high 70s as we go into nationals and as we go into the Olympics. I think that it's a good step."
Paige Lawrence of Kennedy, Sask., and Rudi Swiegers of Kipling, Sask., were sixth, while Margaret Purdy of Strathroy, Ont., and Michael Marinaro of Sarnia, Ont., were eighth.
Skate Canada is the second of six stops on figure skating's Grand Prix circuit. The top six entries in each discipline qualify for the Grand Prix Final, Dec. 5-8, in Fukuoka, Japan.