(Reuters) -Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc set a U.S. short program record on Thursday to take the lead at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the last competition before next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics.
Going last of eight teams and skating to music from the 2018 film “The White Crow,” the pair executed their side-by-side triple loop to perfection to earn a standing ovation from the Nashville crowd and a score of 79.39 from the judges.
The previous record of 77.46 was set last year by Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier.
“We’re thrilled,” said Cain-Gribble.
“It was exactly the way that we wanted to skate. And I knew we had to be perfect after the program that came before us. I knew we couldn’t make any mistakes.”
Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson had delivered an electrifying performance before them that included several challenging lifts to remain in striking distance at 77.48.
Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov were third with a score of 68.11.
The pairs free skate will be held on Saturday.
National champions and favorites in the pairs event Knierim and Frazier were forced to withdraw ahead of the competition after Frazier tested positive for COVID-19.
They are expected to petition to get one of two Olympic pairs’ spots, with a decision expected after the competition ends on Saturday.
Mariah Bell topped the standings after the women’s short program later on Thursday, nailing a triple flip-triple toe loop combination to score 75.55 points ahead of Karen Chen (74.55) and Alysa Liu (71.42).
“I had chills,” the 25-year-old Bell, who is targeting her first national title, said on USA Network.
“I have this part of me that’s just, like, so gritty. When I really need to do something, I can tap into it.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)