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Davis, White open narrow lead over Canadians

Less than two points separate top teams after OD

Meryl Davis and Charlie White have built momentum entering the 2010 U.S. Championships.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White have built momentum entering the 2010 U.S. Championships. (Getty Images)

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By Alexandra Stevenson, special to icenetwork.com
(12/03/2009) - As expected, the original dance event here in Tokyo was a face-off between two-time Canadian world medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

While the Canadians have been tagged as early favorites for Olympic gold in Vancouver in February, the Americans came out on top Thursday, edging their rivals and Canton, Mich., training partners by 1.79 points.

Performing an Indian folk dance, Davis and White bested Virtue and Moir in the technical elements tally, 32.70 points to 31.30 points, and -- more surprisingly -- in program components, 33.10 to 32.71.

The Americans, who finished a controversial fourth (just .04 behind Virtue and Moir) at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships, showed fine unison throughout their difficult, highly synchronized routine. They earned 65.80 points, a new personal best.

Still, they were not satisfied.

"We can always improve our performance," Davis said. "We feel like we performed pretty well today, but we always have some room for improvement. Our elements today weren't as crisp as they usually are -- they seemed a bit muddled."

"For us, the key to success is never being content," White added. "We're always striving to improve."

The Canadians, too, had a solid outing, highlighted by an exciting flip-up entrance to their curve lift. Still, the 64.01 points they earned for their Flamenco was slightly off their personal best 65.02, earned at the 2008 Four Continents Championship.

"Tessa and I are pretty excited with how we skated," Moir said. "Like Chuckie [White] said, there's still room for improvement. This was one step up from our last Grand Prix [Skate Canada].

"Sitting out last fall [because of Virtue's leg muscle problem and related surgery], we really missed out on a lot. We really needed more experience before Worlds."

The top two teams train together in Canton under coaches Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva. Asked how it is to practice with your top rivals every day, White said, "We try to keep it light. We've been training together for years, so at a competition it's like having a piece of home with you. Generally, we just play it down." As expected, the remaining four couples trailed the top two teams.

Performing a country-western number, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France are third with 56.93 points. Britons Sinead Kerr and John Kerr, who also chose a country dance, are fourth with 56.47.

Lynn Rutherford contributed to this article.