COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White took a step toward successfully defending their Four Continents Figure Skating Championships ice dance title by winning the short dance Saturday.
The 2011 world champions and 2010 Olympic silver medallists finished their program with a mark of 72.15, edging reigning Olympic champions Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., who had 71.60 points.
"We felt really good out there," White said. "Everyone likes to talk about altitude, but we tried hard to counter, and it helped our performance. The characters were better portrayed. Technically, we need to work on our levels, so we'll get back to work on that."
Moir feels good about his and Virtue's chances Sunday in the free dance.
"It was a good skate for Tessa and I the way that we attacked it," Moir said. "I made a couple of mistakes, and there are some places where we can make up some points at worlds, but all-in-all, the changes we have done in the last month — and specifically in the weeks since nationals — have really worked well.
"We had a strong skate, so we have to be happy with that, and it sets us up well for tomorrow."
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, both of Waterloo, Ont., were third at 64.23, and two-time U.S. silver medallists Maia and Alex Shibutani were fourth with 63.38.
"This was one of our better performances this season," Weaver said. "We started bobbly with the rhumba patterns, but we forgot that and built toward the end. It's hard to do with this rhythm to get through and have energy throughout. We are looking forward to doing this one more time at the world championships."
Fifth place went to 2012 U.S. bronze medallists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who earned 49.93 points for their program.
Alexandra Paul of Midhurst, Ont., and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont., are sixth.
Earlier, China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong won the pairs short program.
Sui and Han, the two-time and reigning world junior champions, had a score of 66.75 points, more than three points clear of 2012 U.S. Champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin at 63.35.
"Today, we did our best in the short program," Cong said through an interpreter. "It's very amazing and wonderful. We feel so happy, and my partner did very well. Congratulations to the other teams."
Americans Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker were third with 62.42 points.
Paige Lawrence of Kennedy, Sask., and Rudy Swiegers of Kipling, Sask., are sixth, Jessica Dube of Saint-Cyrille de Wendover, Que., and Sebastien Wolfe of Terrebonne, Que., seventh and Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., are eighth.
"Our goal was to reach 60 points," said Lawrence scored 57.97 with Swiegers. "Nothing was easy today but somehow we made it work in the end."
Dube and Wolfe were the only one of the three Canadian pairs that felt satisfied.
"It felt great we did a really good program," said Wolfe. "We brought it up to the next level."
After winning the Canadian title last month, Duhamel and Radford were hoping to fare better.
'We are a little disappointed," said Radford. "We can't really pin our fingers on why we didn't do as well as we wanted. We had to fight for every element."