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Rochette takes ladies lead at Canadians

Defending champ holds slim lead over Leung

Joannie Rochette won her fourth Canadian ladies title.
Joannie Rochette won her fourth Canadian ladies title. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(01/19/2008) - There were no major surprises in the women's short program at the 2008 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships. As expected, three-time defending champion Joannie Rochette is the frontrunner, but she leads perennial challenger Mira Leung by a little more than a point.

Rochette was the only woman to attempt a triple-triple combo. She nailed the flip but the second jump, a triple toe loop, was under-rotated, and she fell.

The fall is a necessary evil, Rochette explained, as she works on the combination. She needs this element if she wants to remain competitive with the world's best in international competition.

"I knew I really had to try it cause it's going to pay off in the future, taking some weight off my shoulders going into 2010. I knew I could try it tonight, the first time in a big competition. It's a big step forward for me," Rochette said.

Leung had no major flaws, earning 58.24 points to Rochette's 59.32.

"I felt like it was a preview to 2010, because it's the same venue, same crowd. I'm really pleased with my skate," Leung said.

Rochette's training mate Myriane Samson, the 2004 junior champion who was fifth last year, is third with 54.88 points. Samson, who has an erratic competition history, delivered a solid performance with a very well-executed triple flip and Lutz.

"I can see the points are really close together," Rochette noted. "This is a tough competition, and I'm not allowed too many mistakes. I know I have to skate a strong free program to stay [in first]."

Cynthia Phaneuf, the 2004 Canadian champion who continues on the comeback trail from a series of injuries, is fourth with 53.49 points.

The rest of the field is likely too far behind to challenge for the podium or one of the two women's berths available for the world championships.

An hour after her pairs disappointment, Jessica Dubé came back to deliver a commendable performance in the women's opening round.

She looked calm and confident in executing a beautiful double Axel to open, following that with an easy triple Lutz-double toe combo before going down on a triple Salchow. Her expression turned glum after that.

Dubé scored 46.76 points to rank eighth heading into the final, set for 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.