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Canada’s Stellato-Dudek, Deschamps in first place after short program at worlds

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps - The Canadian Press

MONTREAL (AP) — Canadian pair Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps put forth an electrifying performance to place first in the short program at the world figure skating championships on Wednesday.

Stellato-Dudek of Chicago and Deschamps of Quebec shattered their season best with a 77.48 score while skating to Cirque du Soleil’s “Oxygène.”

The duo received a standing ovation from a mostly full lower bowl at the Bell Centre.

“This was our best short program of the year, and it being the program that we chose as a tribute to Montreal, I’m very happy that we can give the audience a good ride,” Stellato-Dudek, who pumped her fists at center ice in elation, said after the performance.

“It was definitely the most emotional performance of my career up to now,” added Deschamps.

Defending champions Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan finished second (73.53) and Italy’s Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii were third (72.88).

The free program is set for Thursday evening.

“Tomorrow’s a new day, a lot can happen in the long (program),” Stellato-Dudek said. “We just need to focus on what we can do.”

Local pair Kelly Ann Laurin and Loucas Ethier of Quebec placed 14th with a personal best 60.18 to also qualify.

The three Canadian pairs received loud applause from passionate partisan fans throughout their routines.

“It was a very, very special feeling,” said Ethier. “People were telling us how special it was going to be, but there was no way we could prepare for that. It gave us wings and it really helped us get through that program.

“I had goosebumps. I was skating, and I was telling myself to stay concentrated but to live in the moment and use that energy, but it was really special to have the whole crowd behind us.”

All three American pairs qualified. Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea (64.44) advanced with a 10th-place finish, Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe (62.86) placed 12th, and Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez (61.64) finished 13th.

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx, Isabeau Levito of the United States and Haein Lee of South Korea ranked first to third respectively after the women’s short program.

Two-time defending champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan ranked fourth. She could be the first woman to three-peat since American Peggy Fleming from 1966 to 1968. American Amber Glenn was ninth after the short program.

Competition continues Thursday with the men’s short program and ends Saturday night with the men’s free program.

It’s Montreal’s first time hosting the event since 1932 and the first world championship on Canadian soil since 2013. Canada has hosted the competition 11 times.

Montreal was supposed to host the worlds in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the competition days before it was set to begin.


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