LAVAL, Quebec — Newly engaged and with his first Grand Prix figure skating title within reach, Keegan Messing couldn’t find words to describe his elation Friday night.
“Cloud 9” didn’t quite cut it.
“I’m above the clouds,” Messing said.
The Canadian led Skate Canada International after the short program, less than a week after he asked girlfriend Lane Hodson to be his wife on an Alaskan mountain top.
Skating to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from the movie “Toy Story,” the 26-year-old showman scored 95.05 points, opening with a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, then landing a triple Axel en route to a clean program.
“I’m pretty dang excited,” Messing said.
Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan was second with 88.87 points after crashing on his triple Axel and sliding back-first into the boards at Place Bell. Cha Jun-Hwan, the South Korean teen who trains in Toronto with Canadian coach Brian Orser, was third at 88.86.
Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva topped the women’s singles short program, with 74.22 points, while teammate and two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva ended up seventh. Medvedeva almost fell on the first jump — a triple flip — of a combination, and lost major points for not completing the required element.
Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi was second at 6.51, followed by teammate Mako Yamashita at 6.30. American Star Andrews was fourth at 64.77. Medvedeva had 60.83 points.
Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France led the pairs, scoring 74.51 points in the short program. China’s Peng Cheng and Jin Yang were second at 72.00, followed by Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro at 71.26.
In ice dance, Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue scored 80.29 points to open a big lead. Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov were second at 74.66, followed by Spain’s Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz at (72.35).
The 26-year-old Messing was born in Girdwood, an Alaskan resort town just south of Anchorage, where he now lives. He has dual citizenship because mother Sally was born in Edmonton, Alberta, and raised in Peterborough, Ontario, before moving to Alaska.
Messing is an avid outdoorsman, and so a mountain-top engagement seemed perfect. He and his girlfriend of 2 1/2 years set out for McHugh Peak in the Chugach Mountains last Saturday.
“We had to pitch a wind block because it was blowing about 30-40 miles an hour up there. Everything went wrong. I made her favorite soup but then forgot the matches for the stove. So no soup. No hot chocolate,” he said. “But if she says ‘yes’ when everything goes wrong ….”
Messing was 12th in his Olympic debut in Pyeongchang, just four spots behind Canada’s three-time world champion Patrick Chan. With Chan’s retirement, Messing is a likely heir to the top spot in the country.
“It’s one step at a time right now,” Messing said. “Right now, just focus on skating and see where it takes me, and if it takes me to the top then I’m going to grasp it with two hands and smile while doing it.”