Canadian Joannie Rochette leads women; Dube, Davison third at Skate Canada

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OTTAWA - Her teammates and coaches could see the obvious improvement in her skating this season.
If Joannie Rochette needed any more confirmation, the judges saw it too Friday.
The 22-year-old skater from Ile-Dupas, Que., performed with a calm sense of confidence to finish atop the standings in the women's short program to open the HomeSense Skate Canada International.
"I felt really relaxed out there, even doing the warmup," Rochette said. "I was supposed to smile a bit more, be a bit more calm, it was one of my key words tonight, be calm, loose and just trust my training, because I've been training the best I've ever been."
Rochette was rewarded with a personal best score of 64.74 points, unveiling a new routine choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne to George Gershwin's "Summertime."
"I was just glad with the score I had, because we can say `mission accomplished'," Rochette said. "It's one thing when people around you tell you it's better, but it's another to see it reflected in the marks, and we were so lucky with that.
"My first goal tonight was to improve my program component score, artistic mark and we achieved that, a personal best. I'm really happy that the judges saw a difference in me, and it's really important to come in the first competition of the year and make an impact and give a new look to yourself, and I think we achieved that."
Fumie Suguri of Japan is second with a score of 57.92, while Caroline Zhang of the U.S. is third at 53.28.
Canadian teammate Patrick Chan capped the day with a second-place finish in the men's short program. The 17-year-old from Toronto scored 77.47 points, leaving him behind Yannick Ponsero of France, who scored 78.05. American Ryan Bradley was third with 72.50, while Evan Lysacek, a two-time world championship bronze medallist and a heavy favourite here, botched a jump combination to wind up fourth with 71.40.
Earlier, Canadians Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison opened their season by placing third in the pairs short program.
Rochette, who was fifth at last season's world championships in Sweden, earned a standing ovation for her performance at Scotiabank Place, one of just a couple of routines that didn't include a spill on a shaky afternoon in the women's event. Her only misstep was an extra rotation between jumps on a triple flip-triple toe loop combination.
The Canadian, clad in a pink sequined dress, was standing in the mixed zone when Italy's Carolina Kostner took the ice, the one skater left who could bump Rochette from first place. But Kostner, the world championship silver medallist, slipped and fell to the ice when she was skating backwards, and then in an effort to compensate, fell on a triple Axel that she added late right at the end of the program.
"Of course, I'm not satisfied, I actually did make some mistakes that you cannot even train for. Usually you don't fall in the preparation of a jump, but it happens," said Kostner, who wound up seventh.
"You always fight until the end, but it was just stupid, to change in the competition," she said of her triple Axel attempt. "It was just different thoughts going through my head instead of concentrating on what I really have to do."
Cynthia Phaneuf of Contrecoeur, Que., was ninth in the short program with 45.06 points, falling on her triple flip attempt.
The 20-year-old said her performance didn't reflect the excellent results she's had in training.
"I just think I put too much pressure on myself and I wanted to show how I improved to everyone a little too much," Phaneuf said. "I just have to be confident, that's the only thing, I don't have any confidence on the ice."
Myriane Samson of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., is 12th with a score of 40.42.
Dube and Davison, from Drummondville, Que., scored 60.15 in their pair short program, skating to a orchestral rendition of Coldplay's "Fix You."
Russian pair Alexander Smirnov and Yuko Kawaguchi scored 65.02 to lead after the short program, while Americans Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker are in second with a score of 60.66.
Dube and Davison, who captured bronze at last season's world championships, added a triple twist - a manoeuvre where the man throws the women up parallel to the ice and catches her - to their repertoire this season. The triple twist was key, they said, if they want to battle for a medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but it's a work in progress.
"I wasn't as high as it should have been," Davison said. "That's the only part we're having trouble with right now is the catch, and we need really just a little mileage on it and it will get bigger, and it will be right there."
American ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White were first in the compulsory dance program with a score of 34.29. Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France were second with 33.90, while Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre of the U.S. were third with 31.67.
Vanessa Crone of Aurora, Ont., and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., were fourth with 31.11, while Andrea Chong of Toronto and Montreal's Guillame Gfeller were eighth with 26.29.

Organizations: HomeSense Skate Canada International, Scotiabank Place

Geographic location: Canada, OTTAWA, U.S. Toronto France Japan Sweden Italy Contrecoeur Drummondville Vancouver Olympics Aurora Unionville Montreal

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