Ice Network

Americans make their mark early in Chinese Taipei

Hawayek, Baker set pace in ice dance; Cain, LeDuc hold slim pairs edge
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Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker sit in first place after the short dance, while Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc won the pairs short program at the 2018 Four Continents Championships.

A pair of American teams got off to good starts at the 2018 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, with Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc grabbing the lead in pairs and Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker winning the short dance. Led by Satoko Miyahara, Japan went 1-2-3 in the ladies short program.

Ladies

Miyahara opened her Memoirs of a Geisha short with a triple lutz-triple toe, but the first jump in her entertaining program was under-rotated. Following the minor slipup, the 2015 world silver medalist went on to reel off a triple loop and double axel, as well as exquisite spins and footwork that would later receive Level 4 grading. With a score of 71.74 points, the Japanese champion heads into the free skate with a slim lead.

"I could have done more today and I have a lot of regrets," Miyahara said. "The step sequence and the spins were quite good, though. I think I need more confidence, but it was a good performance. I want to do my best in the free program, especially in the jumps. This will be the last performance before the Olympics, so I want to be satisfied with it."

Skating a picturesque performance of her "Moonlight Sonata" short, Kaori Sakamoto hit a triple flip-triple toe combination, triple loop and a double axel. The 17-year-old received Level 4 grading for her spins to achieve a personal best of 71.34 points, which placed her on the heels of Miyahara.

"I am really happy to surpass 70 points in international competition for the first time," Sakamoto said. "The step sequence was a Level 3, which still can be improved. But other than that, I was very satisfied with the performance."

Rounding out the top three was Mai Mihara, who delivered a strong performance of her "Libertango" program, one that included a triple lutz-triple toe, triple flip and difficult spins. The 2017 Four Continents champion earned a season's-best 69.84 points, a mark that helped Japan secure the top three scores in the segment.

"I am very happy to have done my best short program this season. I don't worry about the result today," Mihara said shortly after leaving the ice. "Before the competition, I set a goal for myself to concentrate and to focus on my own performance. In today's performance, I was able to stay calm and very focused from the beginning until the end, so I was happy with how I did."

American Mariah Bell fell on the back end of her triple lutz-triple toe combination to place fourth in the first segment with 62.90 points. Dabin Choi of the Republic of Korea is in fifth place with 62.30 points, while 15-year-old teammate, Hanul Kim -- the youngest skater in the event -- currently sits in sixth with 61.15 points.

Pairs

Skating to "I'll Take Care Of You" by Joe Bonamassa, Cain and LeDuc produced a triple twist, throw triple lutz, side-by-side triple loops and three Level 4 elements on their way to scoring 66.76 points.

"We're very proud of what we did out there," Cain said. "Our main focus was to do this program justice because we've had a really tough time over the season with that short program. After the national championships, we went home to work and stayed in shape, and we felt that gave us a lot of confidence out there in that program."

Ekaterina Alexandrovskaia and Harley Windsor's performance to "Paint It Black" featured a big Level 4 triple twist, side-by-side triple toes and a throw triple flip. The Australians earned Level 4's on all of their remaining elements and earned 66.45 points to finish a close second.

"Obviously, we're super happy with how we skated. It's good to come back to this ice rink; it feels comfortable for us," said Windsor, who won the world junior title with Alexandrovskaia at Taipei Arena less than a year ago.

Tarah Kayne and Danny O'Shea, the 2014 Four Continents silver medalists, completed a triple twist, side-by-side triple salchows and a throw triple salchow in their routine to "All I Ask of You" from The Phantom of the Opera. The U.S. silver medalists scored 65.74 points to land in third.

"This season has been a long journey," O'Shea said. "We're excited to have another step in the right direction with our performance today, and we look forward to keeping it going."

The top three teams, which are separated by just 1.02 points, all set personal bests Wednesday.

North Korean pair Tae Ok Ryom and Ju Sik Kim turned in a clean performance of their "A Day in the Life" short en route to finishing fourth with a personal-best 65.25 points.

U.S. bronze medalists Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay find themselves in sixth after securing 60.93 points.

Ice Dance

Hawayek and Baker's modern samba/rumba routine featured Level 4 twizzles and a Level 4 curve lift, while the team's rumba pattern, pattern step sequence and side-by-side footwork merited Level 3 grading. The American duo posted a season's best score of 69.08 to catapult themselves into the lead.

"We felt like we had a really solid performance, using the momentum from our national championships, and we had a fun time out there," Hawayek said. "We've had a solid season, and we're excited to cap it off here at Four Continents."

Dancing to a mix of cha cha, rumba and samba music, Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed of Japan picked up Level 4's for their rumba, twizzles and rotational lift and a Level 3 for their pattern step sequence and side-by-side footwork. The Japanese champions earned a new personal-best score of 65.27, which gave the duo a slight hold on the No. 2 spot.

"It felt like we skated really well, and to get the levels we worked so hard for prior to this event is a confidence boost," Reed said. "We're really happy with the placement and looking forward to continuing pushing the momentum in the free (dance) tomorrow."

Slotting third in the segment were Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus. The Canadians produced two Level 4 and two Level 3 elements in their samba/rumba short, and those efforts helped produce a personal-best mark of 65.11.

"It was really fun to skate. Being in third is really awesome," said Firus, who indicated the competition's 9:30 a.m. local start time might have worked in the team's favor. "I guess with our time change, skating in the morning was better for us, and it feels more like we're training."

Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter of the United States are not far out of the medal race after ending the segment in fourth place with 62.83 points. 2017 world junior champions Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons struggled with their twizzles, and they head into the free dance in sixth place with 60.18 points.