Virtue, Moir show improvement, go on to lead
Pair of Russian teams in second, third; Shibutanis stumble to fourth
|Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir look to be in line for another Grand Prix gold. (Getty Images)|
Virtue and Moir put out a confident waltz and polka to "The Waltz Goes On" by Anthony Hopkins. The world and Olympic champions got a Level 4 for their twizzles and rotational lift, while their footwork and second polka pattern garnered a Level 3.
They achieved a new season's best with 70.65 points.
"We wanted to improve on our start at Skate Canada International two weeks ago, and I think we did a really good job with that. We had good connection on the ice and it was strong, just like we've done in training," Moir said. "We're trying to maximize our points and get the most out of the technical side of our skating between here and Sochi. We felt like we did a really strong program."
Ilinykh and Katsalapov had opted for an Uzbek polka and produced Level 4 twizzles and lift. Their circular step sequence and the second polka pattern merited a Level 3.
The reigning European bronze medalists earned 65.70 points.
"This is our first Grand Prix [this season], and we are happy to finally compete. It is nice to compete in our home country, and we got many positive emotions from our skate," Ilinykh noted. "Our score, however, proves that there are still things left to work on."
Sinitsina and Zhiganshin turned in a technically solid performance to "Tennessee Waltz" and a country polka, picking up a Level 4 for the lift, twizzles and first part of the Yankee Polka.
With 60.85 points, the 2012 world junior champions surpassed their score from the Cup of China last week by almost 10 points.
"We are very surprised with this result. It was obviously much better than in China. The support of the audience was great and really helped us," Zhiganshin said. "Hopefully, tomorrow we'll skate even better."