Davis, White tip Virtue, Moir in barn-burner shortVolosozhar, Trankov grab pairs lead over Savchenko, Szolkowy
Friday featured the pairs short program and short dance, respectively, at the 2013 Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka Japan.
Davis, White clinch slim lead in short dance
Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White edged out archrivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada by a mere 0.07 points for the lead in the short dance. Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev landed in third.
Davis and White turned in a strong performance to quickstep and foxtrot from My Fair Lady, and picked up a Level 4 for their side-by-side footwork, twizzles, both Finnstep sequences and rotational lift. The reigning world champions scored 77.66 points, slightly improving on their own record score.
"Meryl and I were really happy with today's skate," White said. "There were a little bit of extra nerves on the bigger stage against the good ole' Canadian rivals over here who we knew would put down a good score. It's hard to block out a score like that before you skate, but we settled in quickly.
"Technically, all Level 4's," he continued. "We are really happy with that. It's just a lot of hard work."
"We still have a lot more room to grow in this program and we are excited about that, but it definitely felt it was the best performance of the season," Davis said. "And it's nice to see it on the scoreboard."
Dancing to "Dream a Little Dream," "Muskrat Ramble" and "Heaven," Virtue and Moir skated excellently as well and also earned a Level 4 for all elements. The Olympic champions got a new personal-best score of 77.59 points.
"Tessa and I are extremely happy with our skate tonight," Moir said. "We've been training really well at home, and we wanted to skate just as well. I found myself coming to this week really excited to compete with Meryl and Charlie. We both skated well, and this narrow margin will be exciting for the fans and hopefully have more people interested in ice dancing."
Davis and White relish the chance to work with Virtue and Moir on a daily basis, despite their rivalry.
"We are so fortunate to train alongside each other," Davis said. "We've tried very much over the years to just focus on ourselves. I think that having such talent alongside of you that Tessa and Scott have every day in training and in competition does nothing but push Charlie and myself further. It makes us want to be a better team every day.
"Something that is really nice about the four of us is that we not only come to the rink every day to top each other and other people, but the four of us feel we are just trying to be the best we can be and push ourselves to new heights that we didn't know we could reach," she continued. "I think that is the goal."
Bobrova and Soloviev's dance to "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" and "I Will Wait For You" featured two Level 4 elements and a Level 3 Finnstep pattern. The world bronze medalists scored 68.90 points.
"I think we skated better today than we did at [Rostelecom Cup]," Bobrova said. "I was able to skate smoothly and calmly, so it felt very nice. We will skate our free dance with a very different emotion, so we hope to focus and do our best tomorrow."
Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje sit within striking distance of the podium at 67.68 points in fourth place.
France's Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat stand in fifth with 66.63 points, and Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte came in sixth with 61.57 points.
Volosozhar, Trankov build narrow lead in pairs short
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia took the lead in the pairs short program, followed by Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy in second and Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China in third.
Performing to "Waltz Masquerade" by Aram Khachaturian, Volosozhar and Trankov produced a triple twist, triple toe, throw triple loop and earned a Level 4 for all elements. The reigning world champions scored 82.65 points.
"We were able to do a clean program like in the past three competitions and we are very happy about it," Trankov said. "At first, we were very nervous because it is the last competition before the Olympics where all of the top skaters from the world come together. However, we were able to skate very well."
Savchenko and Szolkowy's routine to "When Winter Comes" was highlighted by a throw triple flip, triple twist, triple toes and Level 4 elements. The four-time world champions set a new personal best for themselves with 79.46 points, though they got a one-point deduction for a time violation.
"We improved from our last competition, and this was our goal," Szolkowy said. "We took a big step forward. We reconstructed our program and made a little change to the music.
"If, in the end, we'd lose a placement because of this one point (time deduction), it would be upsetting," he added.
Pang and Tong landed a triple toe, triple twist and throw triple loop in their program to Lady Caliph to set a new personal best with 75.40 points. In the closing pose, Tong kissed his partner and fiancée.
"I didn't expect that I could perform that well, so without thinking, I kissed her," Tong said. "We did so well today. The performance is becoming more consistent compared to the beginning of the season."
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada placed fourth with 73.07 points, ahead of China's Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang (68.87 points) and Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch (68.77 points).