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Saturday tidbits from Four Continents

Moir vows to compete at worlds; Rippon to re-work Axel

Daisuke Takahashi won the men's gold medal at Four Continents.
Daisuke Takahashi won the men's gold medal at Four Continents. (Getty Images)

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By Alexandra Stevenson and Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(02/19/2011) - Olympic ice dance champion Scott Moir was in the arena to support the Canadian men's team during Saturday's free skate, and vowed that he and Tessa Virtue will be in Tokyo next month for a worlds showdown with rivals and training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Moir -- who withdrew during the free dance event on Friday due to Virtue's injury -- said there was nothing seriously wrong with his partner.

"It was no big deal," he said. "It was just a muscle pull, nothing severe. We'll be at worlds. It'll be our fifth."

Earlier, Skate Canada high-performance director Michael Slipchuk told reporters Virtue experienced tightness in her left quadricep muscle 30 seconds into their free dance.

Although Virtue underwent surgery in October to relieve chronic exertional compartment syndrome in her lower legs, Slipchuk said the injury here was unrelated.

Hanyu gets shout-out from Weir

Japan's newest up-and-coming star, Yuzuru Hanyu, has a big fan in Johnny Weir, who has tweeted messages of support, including one last summer calling Hanyu and Kanako Murakami "Very nice kids with enormous talent and so elegant." The message was not lost on the 16-year-old here, as he won the silver medal.

"I heard about that from my mother just before my performance," Hanyu, who won the world junior title last season, said. "I was shaking [with nervousness] and his message on Twitter helped me a lot."

Pairs change partners and lift

The main medals in ISU events are presented with much ceremony in the stadium. There is much pomp but generally not many spectators since part of the audience is often in a hurry to get home.

Nowadays, the ISU has added a much more informal "photo op" by presenting the "small" medals, for performance in each of the sections, outside the arenas to drum up public interest.

On Saturday Canadian team leader Debbi Wilkes -- who knows a good media event when she sees one -- got the three Canadian pairs to Saturday morning's ceremony early. The Chinese gold medalists came along with them.

While TV personal rushed around with umbrellas trying to protect their apparatus from rain, the pairs began drumming up interest with lifts in unison, much to the enjoyment of the small crowd.

Canadian champion Kirsten Moore-Towers (third in the free skate with partner Dylan Moscovitch) decided to upstage the others by releasing one hand and waving. The spontaneity turned the fun into a contest with much giggling from all.

For variety, they began swapping partners. Moore-Towers snagged Jian Tong, the Chinese world champion who had just won his fifth Four Continents title (2002, 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2011).

"That was fun," Moore-Towers said later of her moment of being tossed around over the head of one of the sport's greats. "At this level of competition, the boys are all very secure with lifts."

Then Rudi Swiegers (who won silver with partner Paige Lawrence in the short program) decided to lift Moscovitch. The two men gave quite a spectacular demonstration of sheer muscle power.

Wasn't that a bit risky, lifting another guy? "Not at all," said Swiegers, a handsome 23-year old from from Kipling, Saskatchewan. "In training we work with weights up to 180 pounds."

Then the women went at it, less successfully, until Swiegers lifted his partner Megan Duhamel up to transfer her into Lawrence's outstretched arms. The result was lots of laughter, with Duhamel shouting, "Oh, My God!" several times. The men took pity of the two women and helped them disengage.

After the medals had been presented, the pairs fielded questions. Asked about their romance with his partner, Tong replied by kissing his wife-to-be.

The ultra-slim Pang was also asked how she could be so strong and yet her legs were so slim. She said, "It's a secret. You have to come to Beijing to find the answer."

Some notable quotes

This event yielded a number of press conference and mixed zone musings over and above the usual "What a great crowd" and "I think I can learn from this" fare.

Here is what Mao Asada had to say about her up-and-down (mostly down) season, which saw the world champion fail to qualify for December's Grand Prix Final: "After last season in the off-season I was kind of back to the beginning, tried to brush up my jumps from zero [with new coach Nobu Sato]. I'm still in the process of improving my jump technique. Recently it came back to me and it became quite consistent, but still there are ups and downs."

Adam Rippon spoke about the ongoing challenge of mastering the triple Axel, a jump he was unable to land here: "I don't know what the problem has been. When I started out in the summer, it felt much better. I think, even though it sounds silly, winning the free skate at the Japan Open [in early October] spooked me because I didn't know all my hard work would pay off so quickly. I'd rather learn this lesson this season rather than one closer to the next Olympics. I have to completely change the Axel technique."

Here's Armin Mahbanoozadeh on his progress with the quadruple toe loop: "I landed my quad for the first time in a competition practice this week. I'm going to continue working on that. I really want one in the program next year. I want to push myself technically and artistically for next season."

Japan's other world champion, Daisuke Takahashi, shared how he tried to deal with pressure from the media and well-meaning advice from fans: "I used to be so sensitive of all the voices, like advice or comments and I felt pressure from that. But I tried to change my mindset. Every comment is made because everybody is caring about me and tried to support me, so I received these voices in a positive way. Instead of pressure, I can get support from that."