Canadian ice dance pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir put an early stamp on their quest for another Olympic gold on Saturday night, winning the Skate Canada International grand prix.
The defending Olympic gold medalists notched a score of 107.88 points in the free skate for a total of 181.03 points in the two-day event, their first major competition in preparation for Sochi in February.
Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were second with 175.23 total points, followed by Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue, with 153.20 total points.
"We're really pleased with that performance. We approached it in the right way in that we were trying to take it one step at a time," Virtue said afterward, noting that the pair put a particular focus on executing their elements after making a small, uncharacteristic error in the short program Friday night, where they ended up out of sync on their side-by-side twizzle spins.
"It felt good," Moir said of the win. "Where we are in the season right now, we're particularly pleased with that performance."
Moir and Virtue were in first place coming into the free skate Saturday night, after scoring 73.15 points in the short program. Weaver and Poje were in second after the short program, with 70.35 points, followed by Hubbell and Donahue, with 60.92 points.
For Weaver and Poje, it was a weekend of personal bests in both the short and the long programs, a sign the team is gaining momentum after an injured ankle hindered Weaver for much of last season.
"It's a definite starting point for us. We want to grow from here and we want to get better and stronger as the season progresses, but we're really happy," Poje said.
Despite setting personal bests in Saint John, Weaver said the pair has work to do honing their programs in advance of their next international competition in Russia, ahead of the Sochi Olympics. "I think we can be very very proud of [the personal best scores]. We have some areas to improve and we're looking to do that for our next grand prix in Russia," Weaver said.
While the event produced strong performances from Canada's top two ice dance pairs, Virtue and Moir's main rivals for the gold medal in Sochi - American skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White - were not competing at the Skate Canada International event in Saint John.
Moir said he and Virtue plan to scrutinize their scores from Saint John to look for areas they need to improve, prior to their next international competition in France.
"Now we just do our homework, look at the breakdowns, try and build a little bit of power and speed going into France," Moir said.