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Kirsten Moore-Towers is lifted by Dylan Moscovitch during the pairs short program at the Skate America figure skating competition in Detroit, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. (CARLOS OSORIO/AP)
Kirsten Moore-Towers is lifted by Dylan Moscovitch during the pairs short program at the Skate America figure skating competition in Detroit, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. (CARLOS OSORIO/AP)

Canada’s Moore-Towers and Moscovitch second after short program at Skate America Add to ...

Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch are in second place after Saturday’s short program in pairs at Skate America which launches the ISU Grand Prix figure skating season.

World champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia grabbed the lead with 83.05 points, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch followed with a personal best score of 71.51 and Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia are third at 64.80.

“We improved on most aspects of our program,” said Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont. “The transitions and connections were the things we really wanted to do better today.”

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch put their hat in the Olympic medal contenders’ ring last season placing fourth at the world championships. They opened 2013-14 with a victory at the U.S. Skate International last month.

Moscovitch says he wasn’t surprised to see a personal best this early in the season.

“We knew we were on track to get that score at this point,” said the Toronto resident. “We’re happy with it even though we didn’t skate completely perfectly.”

Margaret Purdy of Strathroy, Ont., and Michael Marinaro of Sarnia, Ont., are seventh.

The pairs free skate is on Sunday. The two couples are Canada’s only entries at the competition.

Later, Mao Asada of Japan won the women’s short program, beating Ashley Wagner.

This marked the second straight competition where Volosozhar and Trankov, the reigning Skate America champions, have set a short program world record. Their previous record, 81.65, was set last month en route to winning the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Their Skate America performance, to “Masquerade Waltz” by Aram Khatchaturian, was a crisp display of big throws and lifts, unison spins and a triple toe loop, and sophisticated interpretation. The crowd gave the Russians a one-minute standing ovation.

“We don’t care so much about the world record,” Trankov said. “We care more about our personal record, about our season’s best, about our skating.

“It’s our pleasure to skate good, and to have audience love it. When people stand up out of their seats, and are very loud and clap their hands, we feel it. It is more important thing than the scores.”

Asada skated cleanly and had 73.18 points. Wagner, the defending Skate America champion from the U.S., was next at 68.26. Elena Radinova of Russia, who is 14 and the reigning world junior champion, was third at 67.01. The long program is Sunday night.

Asada boosted her score on the fly, changing her planned program content. She had planned a triple flip-triple loop near the beginning, but went with a triple loop instead. Asada performed a triple loop-double toe near the end of the short, upping her total.

Asada’s high-technical program had a pleasing, quiet flow. She made an adjustment, turning a planned triple flip-double loop scheduled for the start to a triple loop-double loop near the end. Jumps placed in the latter half of a program, when a skater is typically tiring, receive a higher scoring value.

“For the past few years, I was not able to perform my best at the first Grand Prix, so I was very happy I was reasonably able to perform a very good performance,” Asada said through a translator. “I think it is a very good start for the season.”

Wagner’s steady performance revealed her off-season work to improve her difficulty level. Wagner, the two-time U.S. champion, is also the defending Skate America titleholder but was still a technical difficulty level below Kim Yu-na, Carolina Kostner, and Asada coming into this season.

Wagner’s lack of a triple-triple was addressed, and Skate America was the first ISU Grand Prix of the season to display it. Her more mature short program, to Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” debuted at Skate America with a leadoff successful triple flip-triple toe.

When her score of 69.26 was announced, she screamed “Oh!” and then did a little seated shimmy dance.

“Going into the flip-toe, I was actually pretty terrified because it’s a high-risk element for me,” Wagner said. “Before I went out there, Rafael (Arutunian) told me, ‘Just go do it, go skate the flip-toe, do it like you know how to.’ And I just kind of turned the rest off and went into autopilot for the flip-toe and performed it like the way I had in practice. I’m happy with that.”

While Asada and Wagner both impressed, the buzz from the short program was Radionova. She is Skate America’s youngest competitor, and many wondered how she would handle the pressure of the season’s first Grand Prix event.

She answered the questions quickly, delivering a clean and confident performance. Radionova is the reigning world junior champion, and dominated the senior-level Nebelhorn Trophy event last month in Germany. She is ineligible for the Sochi Olympics because of her age.

“This competition is a new level for me, I did not expect this result. ... I was not nervous, I was really calm and I kept it together really well,” Radionova said through a translator. “I think this competition has a big meaning for me.”

The pairs competition wasn’t nearly as close, as Volosozhar and Trankov showed they were at a level above the field.

Canadians Moore-Towers and Moscovitch are nearly 13 points behind the leaders. Their throw triple loop was big, but Moore-Towers double-footed the landing.

Former junior champions Ksneia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov evoked a Spanish feel in their short program. Their side-by-side triple toes were on par with those of Volosozhar and Trankov. But they lost points by downgrading their opening triple twist lift to a double.

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