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Gilles and Poirier, Sui and Han, Mura claim shorts

Americans finish second in all three disciplines, third in dance, pairs
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With a career-best score of 62.38, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada finished first in the short dance. -Getty Images

The 2014 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships opened in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei, on Wednesday with the short dance, pairs short program and men's short program.

Gilles, Poirier jump ahead in short dance

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada grabbed a narrow lead over Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue in the short dance, with Team USA's Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton pulling into third.

Gilles and Poirier turned in a strong quickstep and swing that featured Level 4 twizzles, a Level 4 lift and one Level 4 Finnstep sequence. The Canadians picked up a Level 3 for their side-by-side diagonal footwork and a Level 2 for the second part of the Finnstep to post a personal best of 62.38 points.

"I'd say this is our best performance yet," Gilles said. "We've had a little bit of an injury earlier this year, so we've been pushed back a little bit with our training time. We finally feel like we're starting to peak, and we're very happy with what we did."

Hubbell and Donohue's dance to quickstep and foxtrot by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was highlighted by a smooth Finnstep pattern (Level 4) and curve lift, but Hubbell stepped out of the twizzles (Level 2). The U.S. team still earned a personal best of 61.05 points.

"Today's performance was shaky in parts," Hubbell said. "We obviously made an error during our twizzles sequences. Some things have improved. We got Level 4 on both sides of the Finnstep, and we're happy about that. All in all, I think that we have improvement to make during our free dance, and that's really our strong point, so we're looking forward to tomorrow."

Dancing to quickstep, foxtrot and swing, Aldridge and Eaton collected a Level 4 for three elements and scored a new season's best of 57.65 points.

"Because of the quick turn-around from nationals, we could come here and use our great skate and the hype from nationals to come here and skate to the best of our ability," Aldridge said. "We feel really fortunate to be here."

Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill of Canada sit in fourth at 53.97 points, followed by fellow Canadians Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams (53.73) and Americans Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt (49.55).

Sui, Han claim pairs short program

China's Wenjing Sui and Cong Han triumphed in the pairs short program with a personal-best score. Americans Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, and Tarah Kayne and Daniel O'Shea sit second and third, respectively.

Sui and Han delivered an excellent program to La Strada, reeling off a throw triple flip, triple toe, triple twist and four Level 4 elements, registering 75.26 points.

"Even though we got a really high score today, we thought we were not even close to perfect," Han said. "I thought that the quality of the elements still could be improved. Our strategy for this season was to showcase a more mature side of us with refined movements and a dramatic storyline."

Scimeca and Knierim's performance to "Papa Can You Hear Me" was highlighted by a high triple twist and an Axel lasso lift, but she two-footed the throw triple flip. The team from Colorado Springs earned 66.04 points, another personal-best score.

"Honestly, we struggled a lot this season with our short program," Scimeca said, "And this was our last one for the season and goal was to make it the best, so we're really proud that we did. I was actually nervous, but my difference was that I tried not to hold back."

Competing in their first major international event, Kayne and O'Shea put out a solid program to James Bond that included a triple Salchow, throw triple loop and four Level 4 elements. The skaters from Florida collected 62.05 points.

"Our placement is surprising," Kayne said. "However, how we skated, to us, isn't a surprise. We train every day a certain way. Today, we went out and put out what we train. It's a good feeling to put out what you train and to feel strong on the ice."

Reigning world junior champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier of the United States came fourth with 58.57 points, followed by world junior silver medalists Margaret Purdy and Michael Marinaro of Canada with 51.97 points.

Mura emerges on top in men's short program

Takahito Mura of Japan leads the men following the short program, followed by American Richard Dornbush in second and Nan Song of China in third.

Performing to "Minnie the Moocher" and "Jumpin' Jack," Mura landed a quad toe, triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe and picked up a Level 4 for two spins. The 22-year-old set a new personal best for himself with 84.21 points.

"I couldn't qualify for the Olympic Games and, originally, I wasn't going to the Four Continents Championships," Mura said. "I was really disappointed. So, when I got to go to this competition, I was really positive about it, and I have been doing well. The short program was really good. Since I am here, I am enjoying the practices and I when I went out to compete, I was in a good mood and confident.

"I was really dancing without thinking about anything else. That's why the short program went really well."

Dornbush stumbled out of his opening quad Salchow that was under-rotated, but he rallied back to produce a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe and three Level 4 spins in his routine to "The Sons of Italy." The Californian achieved a new season's best with 82.13 points.

"Going to the short, I wasn't really focused on placement or anything," Dornbush said. "I was really focused on the program, and I knew what I needed was a good attempt on the quad and skate the rest of the program cleanly, and I was able to do that. I think that it was a good confidence boost, but mostly I think, after a good short, I just need to get down on my knees and focus on the long."

Song's program to "The Middle East Side" was highlighted by a quad-triple toe loop combination, triple Lutz and Level 4 spins, but he stepped out of the triple Axel. The Chinese skater still got a new season's best with 78.71 points.

"I brought out my A game," Song said. "The quad toe was really good, so I kind of relaxed and I stumbled on the triple Axel. I am not nervous at all for the free skating. I feel really confident."

Takahiko Kozuka of Japan wound up fourth (76.85 points), just ahead of reigning world silver medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, who has 76.34 points.

Canada's Jeremy Ten pulled into sixth place with 75.21 points.

Americans Joshua Farris and Adam Rippon finished seventh and eighth place, respectively, with Farris garnering 74.85 points and Rippon reeling in 72.90 points.

Jin Seo Kim of Korea withdrew before the men's short program due to injury (tendonitis in his left foot), and Michael Christian Martinez of Philippines did not appear.

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