Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir lead in return


TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir hold a slim lead over American pair Meryl Davis and Charlie White after Thursday's short program in the ice dance competition at the Four Continents figure skating championships.

In the pairs short program, 2010 world champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China took a big lead to put themselves in position to win their fifth Four Continents title.

For Virtue and Moir, the advantage was far less secure.

The Canadian couple scored 69.40 points in their return to the ice following Virtue's October surgery to relieve pressure in her legs from compartment syndrome. That compared to 69.01 for their American rivals.

"It was exciting for Tess and I to get back on the ice," said Moir, who described their performance as "comfortable and strong."

Virtue and Moir combined precision, fluency and elegance to delight the crowd at the Taipei Arena. But they will have to be at their best to stay ahead of Davis and White, their training partners in Detroit, when the ice dance competition concludes Friday.

"It's definitely a good start," Virtue said.

White, however, was disappointed with his performance with Davis.

"It probably wasn't our best skating," White said. "Technically it could have been a little bit better."

In the pairs competition, Pang and Tong scored 71.41 points, well ahead of Canadian duo Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, who were second at 59.98.

The Chinese couple dazzled the Taipei crowd with a perfectly choreographed triple toeloop and triple lutz twist lift.

The Four Continents competition, which finishes Sunday, features skaters from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania. It is a prelude to next month's world championships in Japan.