In the men's qualifier, Vaughn Chipeur attracted lots of attention, having put himself on the sport's radar screen with his stellar showing as a last-minute substitute for Jeff Buttle at Skate Canada last fall. Chipeur, who ranked way back in 16th at the 2006 Canadians, turned a lot of heads with his short program performance on the way to a seventh-place result in Victoria in November.
On Tuesday, Calgary-based Chipeur edged senior rookie Joey Russell by the slimmest of margins to top the 20-man field. Chipeur scored
117.94 points, while last season's junior champion Russell, of Newfoundland, collected 117.63.
Cedric Demers, of Quebec, was third with 109.50.
Asked if he approached this event differently, now that he is considered a podium contender, Chipeur said he tries not to think of it that way although he does appreciate the fact that he "opened a few people's eyes."
He added, "People know I'm out there, but I try not to focus on that.
"I feel well-trained, ready and confident," said Chipeur, who admits that, in previous years, training for skating was not his top priority.
Chipeur figures a top-five or top-six finish here would be "nice, reasonable." He intends to show a triple flip-triple toe in the short program. Previously, he opted for a triple-double. Executing a second triple Axel in his long program is also in the game plan.
That didn't happen on Tuesday but he'll likely get another shot in Saturday's finale. He did execute six triples, including one Axel in the qualifier, although a couple of landings were iffy.
"It's always tough to switch a level," said Russell, whose junior title was the first-ever national figure skating title for his home province of Newfoundland.
"I just wanted to belong. I was just thinking 'skate like a senior. Go fast. Do your jumps.'"
He did that. Russell nailed seven triple jumps including two triple-triple combinations. His triple Axel is not yet ready for prime-time.
"For me, today, there was no hesitation. Just go for everything no matter what happens... Today I was lucky and everything happened the way it should," Russell said.
The men skate their short programs on Friday.