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Surprising U.S. results in world championships short dance

Maia Shibutani Alex Shibutani

FILE - In this Jan. 21 2017, file photo, Maia and Alex Shibutani perform during the free dance competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, in Kansas City, Mo. The U.S. is sending a contingent to the World Championships led by reigning silver medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani that has every reason to believe it can knock Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir from the top step of the podium. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley, File)


Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir reset their short-dance world record, while the three U.S. couples finished in a surprising order at the world figure skating championships in Helsinki on Friday.

Virtue and Moir, undefeated this season after taking two years off following a Sochi Olympic silver medal, tallied 82.43 points, beating their previous record by 1.97. Virtue and Moir now own the four highest short-dance scores of all time, achieved at their last four international competitions dating to November.

“I don’t think we’ve taken the ice at a world championship so prepared,” said Virtue, who seeks her third world title with Moir and first since 2012. “The reasons why we decided to come back, and it’s moments like that on the ice.”

They lead by 5.54 points over France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who are seeking to become the first dancers to win three straight world titles in 20 years. The gap between first place and second place is greater than the gap between second and ninth.

The shakeup came after those first two couples.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are the top-scoring U.S. couple for the first time in their careers. They received 76.53 points, just .36 behind the French and a personal best by nearly three points. The top three couples all train under the same coaches in Montreal.

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Hubbell and Donohue finished third at each of the last three U.S. Championships, but on Friday were better than Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, the last two world silver medalists.

“We’re just ecstatic,” Hubbell said. “We really changed our mindset and didn’t limit ourselves in what we [thought we] were capable of and really wrapped our minds around the possibility of being the very best in the world.”

Chock and Bates are in fourth and the Shibutanis in fifth going into Saturday’s free dance (coverage on NBCSN, and the NBC Sports app at 2:30 p.m. ET).

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Short Dance
1. Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) -- 82.43
2. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) -- 76.89
3. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) -- 76.53
4. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) -- 76.25
5. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) -- 74.88