World silver medallist Rochette trails Phaneuf after short program

Cynthia Phaneuf returned to the scene of an earlier defeat Friday to win the women’s short program at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships.

Canada's Cynthia Phaneuf

Canada's Cynthia Phaneuf

LONDON, Ont. — Patrick Chan overcame a couple of errors Friday to win the men’s short program by a whopping margin at the Canadian figure skating championships.

The reigning world silver medallist from Toronto scored 90.14 points, despite putting a hand down on a triple flip, then doubling a planned triple-flip on the back end of a combination.

The 19-year-old Chan, who’s already booked his ticket to the Vancouver Olympics, takes a commanding lead into Sunday’s free skate over Edmonton’s Vaughn Chipeur, who earned 78.87 points with his clean program. Joey Russell of Labrador City, N.L., was third with 74.04.

Reigning world silver medallist Joannie Rochette, meanwhile, will have to battle from behind to claim her sixth consecutive Canadian figure skating title.

Rochette, from Ile-Dupas, Que., registered a fall-induced 64.15 points to trail Cynthia Phaneuf of Contrecoeur, Que., who skated a clean program to score 66.30 points.

“Stuff like that happens and you have to deal with it,” said Rochette, who fell on her opening triple Lutz. “But I was still able to get a good score to be in a good position for the free skate and that’s what a short program is for — at least in my case.”

Amelie Lacoste of Delson, Que., was third with 53.99 points.

Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., stretched their already-sizeable lead in ice dance, scoring 70.15 in the original dance. They take a score of 114.13 overall into Saturday’s free dance.

“I definitely wouldn’t say perfect, there were already some areas we wanted to improve, but it was a great step for us,” Virtue said. “It was just about as good as we could have done today.”

With just two Olympic berths open in each of the four disciplines, a mere .02 points separates second and third place in dance. Kaitlyn Weaver of Toronto and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., are second with 94.79 points, just ahead of Vanessa Crone of Aurora, Ont., and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont. (94.77).

“We always have to treat every day like it’s the next toward the Olympics because it is,” Poje said. “We have to make sure we’re on that path because that’s one of our goals in life and we want to make sure we achieve that.”

Annabelle Langlois of Barrie, Ont., and Cody Hay of Edmonton won the pairs short program with a score of 65.47 points.

Jessica Dube of St-Cyrille de Wendover, Que., and Bryce Davison of Huntsville, Ont., the defending champions, were second with 62.87, while Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Craig Buntin of Kelowna, B.C., were third with 62.38.

Rochette, who has already clinched her spot on Canada’s Olympic team, also trailed Phaneuf at last year’s Canadian championships, but bounced back in the long program to win.

Friday, she was happy to have finished strong after her early spill.

“Of course disappointed with that mistake,” she said. “But I think that’s good because I wanted to find that fighting spirit again, and missing that first jump like this — it’s usually one of my best jumps now — it’s always a good test.

“I hoped to come back stronger and I was happy (I did).”

Phaneuf is under no illusions. Maintaining a lead through Saturday’s long program is a tall order.

But then, the veteran skater said earning a ticket to Vancouver is her main objective.

“I’m not going to say I was not thinking about (winning the title), but I’m coming here to get to the Olympics, and this is my goal,” Phaneuf said. “For sure I’m not going to think about it when I’m doing my program, but I’m coming here for nothing else but that.”

Langlois and Hay, meanwhile, find themselves poised to capture an Olympic berth after missing all of last season when Langlois broke her fibula.

“It was heartbreaking,” Langlois said of sitting out last year’s championships. “We were on the verge of tears the whole time, it was very crushing.”

“The longer that we’ve been here, the more that we do, being out there for the short, the more I realize what we did miss last year,” Hay added. “Usually I’m so much more nervous but it felt like such a relief to be out there performing.”

While the competition is stiff to earn a berth in pairs, Davison, who won bronze with Dube at the 2008 world championships, said that can only be good for the sport in Canada.

“Because you have the competitiveness at home,” Davison said. “When you go out to a Grand Prix or a worlds, it’s not like you just had a walk in a park, you have to be ready all the time.”