U.S. leads ice dancing short dance

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 medalists finished their program with a mark of 72.15, edging reigning Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, 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."

Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were third at 64.23, and two-time U.S. silver medalists 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 medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who earned 49.93 points for their program.

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."

The Colorado Springs-based Denney and Coughlin have only been partners since May.

"It felt like I hoped it would skating at home, and I felt the support from our friends and family," Coughlin said. "It was nice to put out a good performance for them and for ourselves. Our components improved greatly from our last Grand Prix score, so I'm excited about that."

They felt good about their ability to take their program to an even higher level than nationals.

"Going into this, we felt we could improve on this program and we could improve on this from nationals, and I felt like we did that," Denney said.

Americans Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker were third with 62.42 points.

"We're just really happy with our skate today," Brubaker said. "We were pretty strong on things, and this was definitely a step in the right direction. Between nationals and here, it's definitely how you want to be skating here."