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Pairs’ leaders Emily Chan, Spencer Howe withdraw from figure skating nationals

Emily Chan and Spencer Howe withdrew from the Prevagen U.S. Figure Skating Championships soon after topping the pairs’ short program Thursday to preserve their health after their first competitive skate in 10 months.

They competed for the first time since Howe underwent surgery to repair a torn right shoulder labrum in May.

“Tonight was a big success for us, and a huge milestone to our comeback, but we feel we want to take this time to continue to get healthy and set ourselves up for success,” Howe told U.S. Figure Skating.

Howe said before the skate that he was at 95%. In their performance, they did a one-arm lift (with his right arm) for the first time all week in Columbus, Ohio, a sign that Howe is still working his way back.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Chan and Howe, last year’s U.S. silver medalists, landed side-by-side triple toe loops. Then Chan put her hand down and spun out of the landing of their throw triple loop.

It was still enough to lead by 1.29 points over Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea as all of the top pairs had at least one significant error. The free skate is Saturday.

After nationals, a U.S. Figure Skating committee will name three pairs to the team for March’s world championships in Montreal.

Chan and Howe are still eligible to be chosen despite withdrawing from nationals. They must file a petition to be considered, and they are planning to do so, according to U.S. Figure Skating.

Chan and Howe went from fourth at the January 2022 U.S. Championships to fifth at the March 2023 World Championships, the best debut finish for a U.S. pair in 33 years.

They competed all last season with Howe nursing the torn shoulder labrum. His recovery timeline forced them to withdraw from the fall Grand Prix Series. More on their road back here.

“It was honestly so thrilling just to be here and be able to compete after a long road to recovery,” Chan said after Thursday’s program on NBC Sports.

Last year’s U.S. champions, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, stepped away from competition after last season.