NICE, France (AP) -- Ice dance Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada took the lead after the short dance program at the figure skating world championships on Wednesday, relegating defending champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White into second place.
Virtue and Moir, who clinched the worlds and Olympic double two years ago, posted a score of 72.31 points. Their American archrivals scored 70.98.
"We are happy about our performance," Virtue said. "We feel very strong and much more confident now for the free dance."
At this year's Grand Prix final, Davis and White won, but Virtue and Moir bounced back to win last month's Four Continents -- beating the U.S. pair for the first time since the 2010 worlds.
"We (are) big rivals with Meryl and Charlie," Moir said. "We are happy with our score and now we are just excited about the free dance, this is our program."
Virtue and Moir are poised to win their world title back heading into Thursday's free, but the Americans are determined to stop them.
"We love our free dance. We're very excited to take the energy we put out there today and continue it into tomorrow," White said. "It's a fantastic crowd and they are really behind us. We're really looking forward to getting out there."
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France are in third place with 69.13.
In the pairs competition, defending champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany took the lead after the short program.
"I am quite pleased with the performance but it wasn't 100 percent yet," Savchenko said.
The three-time winners posted 68.63 points, and Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China, the Olympic silver medalists and two-time world champions, sitting in second with 67.10.
"After not competing internationally all year we were quite nervous," Pang said. "The couples from Germany and Russia are very strong and we have to show our very best in the free skating."
Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan were third on 65.37 ahead of Friday's free program.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia, last year's runners-up and the reigning European champions, were expected to challenge the Germans again for the title, but slipped to eighth place after an error-riddled program.