MISSISSAUGA, Ontario (AP)Canadian ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier were so burned out after an Olympic season of isolation and dodging COVID-19 that their six-week break over the summer wasn’t just a choice – it was a necessity.

”It was what we needed in order to be able to continue,” Poirier said. ”I think otherwise, we just would have . ”

”We wouldn’t have come back,” Gilles said.

Making their season debut after the longest stretch of down time of their careers, Gilles and Poirier captured gold at Skate Canada International, the third of their career. And they said they’ve never felt stronger.

”Absolutely,” Gilles said. ”We’re rested, we’re mentally healthy, everything is right where it needs to be.”

Japan’s Rinka Watanabe captured gold in women’s singles earlier Saturday. Shoma Uno, Japan’s reigning world champion, overtook countryman Kao Miura to win the men’s singles gold, and Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won Japan’s first-ever Grand Prix pairs title.

Gilles and Poirier earned 128.47 points for their passionate program to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ”Evita,” music they had thought about skating to since the beginning of the partnership in 2011, and scored 215.70 overall for gold.

Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson won the silver (209.18), while Canadians Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha claimed the bronze (195.49).

Skating to the soundtrack from the Japanese TV show ”Jin,” Watanabe opened with a triple Axel – a jump that still eludes most female skaters – to win the women’s singles title with 197.59. It was her Grand Prix debut, on either the junior or senior level.

”I was pretty nervous but I think I did pretty well, so I’m really happy to have done good, solid, today,” she said.

Watanabe, who had lived and trained in Vancouver from 2017 until the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to return to Japan, is planning to include two triple Axels in her free program at her next event.

Starr Andrews of the U.S. scored 191.26 to win silver, while You Young of South Korea, who also landed a triple Axel, captured the bronze (190.15).

In the men’s free skate to cap the night, Miura, the leader after the short program, broke a skate lace before warmups and only jumped on the ice with 30 seconds remaining. The 17-year-old fell on his quad Salchow, and dropped to silver with 265.29.

Uno scored 273.15 for gold, while Matteo Rizzo of Italy captured the bronze (251.03).

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