Gilles, Poirier lead after rhythm dance at virtual Skate Canada Challenge

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are the leaders after the rhythm dance of the unique and virtual Skate Canada Challenge.

The reigning Canadian champions scored 87.96 points.

Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen are second (86.55), while Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha scored 81.58 to sit third.

Because of rising COVID-19 cases in Canada, the Challenge was held virtually. Skaters submitted videos of their programs that were shot at their home rinks over the past few weeks. To simulate a live show, the programs were broadcast — and judged in real time — on Saturday.

No fans were permitted in the rinks, just the skaters, their coaches, a video crew, and a Skate Canada official who was there to ensure competition rules were followed.

The makeshift competition is the only event Canadians skaters have had this season. Skate Canada recently announced the cancellation of next month’s Canadian championships in Vancouver. That event would have determined the team for the world championships in March in Stockholm. Whether or not the world championships will happen is questionable.

Last year’s world championships in March were one of the first international sports event cancelled due to the pandemic. Skate Canada International in October was also cancelled.

The U.S. national championships, meanwhile, are happening this weekend in Las Vegas.

The women’s free program was scheduled for later Saturday, while the men’s free is Sunday.

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro won the pairs competition last weekend.

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