Rochette trails Phaneuf after short program

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CANADIAN FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS

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

But while her score of 66.30 points leaves her ahead of defending champion Joannie Rochette - who registered a fall-induced score of 64.15 points - it won't change predictions for next month's Olympic Games. Rochette remains the better medal hopeful in Vancouver.

LONDON, Ont. -

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

But while her score of 66.30 points leaves her ahead of defending champion Joannie Rochette - who registered a fall-induced score of 64.15 points - it won't change predictions for next month's Olympic Games. Rochette remains the better medal hopeful in Vancouver.

It was here at the John Labatt Centre where Phaneuf, 21, of Contrecoeur, Que, slipped to second place overall behind Rochette in 2005 after winning the 2004 championship. This time, with the long program still to come Saturday, she hit her short program perfectly.

Now Rochette, the defending world silver medallist, will have to battle from behind to claim her sixth consecutive Canadian figure skating title. Amelie Lacoste of Delson, Que., was third with 53.99 points.

Later on Friday, 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.

"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."

Rochette, who turned 24 on Wednesday, says she's pleased she managed to bounce back after her spill to finish her program - a tango to "La Cumparsita" - without mishap.

"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."

Canada has two entries in ladies singles for Vancouver.

Langlois and Hay are back at the event they won in 2008 after missing all of last season when Langlois broke her fibula.

"It was heartbreaking," Langlois said, of sitting out the 2009 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."

Canada also has two entries in pairs for the Olympics, and heading into Saturday's free program, nothing is a given.

Davison, who won bronze with Dube at the 2008 world championships, said having three teams battling it out 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."

Organizations: Olympic Games, John Labatt Centre

Geographic location: Vancouver, Canada, LONDON Contrecoeur, Que Delson Barrie Edmonton St-Cyrille de Wendover Huntsville Kelowna

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