Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier lead after Short Dance

Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier are currently first after the Pairs Short Program at the 2011 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships.

The dance competition promised to be a battle, and it has certainly been set up that way for Sunday’s free dance. Fighting for the title are Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier (CO) and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (NO), separated after Friday’s short dance by just .16. Both teams skated cleanly and with attack in the short dance, and although the programs were different, both teams had built a program that suited their own strengths.

With a slight lead are Crone and Poirier, whose bluesy waltz to Fallin’ earned 65.80 points. Their opening rotational lift, in which Poirier flips Crone upside down, received gasps from the crowd and mostly +2 Grades of Execution (GOE) from the judges. They received level four for the first half of the Golden Waltz pattern and level three for the second half, as well as a level three for their silky-smooth midline step sequence.

Crone and Poirier edged Weaver and Poje on both the technical mark and the components mark, however, the differences were minute. Anything can happen on Sunday.

Weaver and Poje earned 65.64 points in their charming short dance set to At Last and Cheek to Cheek. The glamourous style looked beautiful on them, and their skating was secure and confident. Earning the same levels at Crone and Poirier, the protocol between the two teams was nearly identical. Weaver and Poje earned more for their lift, but less for their twizzles.

With the top two teams so closely matched and a national title on the line, the stakes are even higher for the free dance. If both teams skate cleanly, the numbers should still be very close, and the mental game is just as important as the technical and performance aspects.

Just over four points out of the lead are Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam (CO), who are competing in their first season on the senior level. The youngsters laid down a great short dance and expressed their tango program with a lot of passion. Good levels on the elements helped them earn 61.57 points which gives them a bit of a cushion over the fourth-place team, Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill (CO).

Although their Golden Waltz patterns were not quite as secure as the top two teams, Paul and Islam earned a level four for the first half and a level two for the second half, with +.50 overall GOE for both. They ended with a crisp midline sequence that earned a level three.

Ralph and Hill are in fourth place with 57.27 points. Their Cinderella routine had good speed and was skated with precision. Some of their edges on the pattern seemed a little shaky, but they hit seven of the eight bullet points, earning level three on the second half (skated first) and level four on the first half. They dropped a level on their rotational lift, but the level-three element was strong and fast, so it received positive GOEs. Just over four points out of third, they have some ground to make up if they want to reach the podium, but they are certainly not out of contention yet.

The most local team in the field, Tarrah Harvey and Keith Gagnon (BC/YT) from the Vancouver area, had the support of the audience the whole way through their unique short dance, set to a tango and Danse Macabre. Their score of 55.34 was a fantastic effort for them, and they did not receive any negative GOE marks. The team opened their program with a sharp and dramatic midline step sequence, the element that earned their best GOE marks, but it was called a level two, and they were going for a level three.

After a solid Golden Waltz pattern that earned level three on both halves, Harvey and Gagnon ended their program with fast twizzles that earned them a big cheer from the home crowd. They gave themselves a comfortable eight-point lead over the sixth-place finishers, Sarah Arnold and Justin Trojek (WO), heading into Sunday’s free dance.

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