Pairs bring drama, skill, and amazing costumes to short program

The figure skating short program had no shortage of drama Sunday night in Vancouver, with the Chinese married pair of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao coming in first on Valentine's Day. But even better than the skating are the costumes that each pair wore.

Shen and Zhao performed their routine about as perfectly as a short program can be done. They were the first on the ice, and set the bar high for each program, though their costumes were relatively boring, especially in comparison to their closest competitors.

Yes, those are skaters dressed as clowns. The German pair of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are just 0.7 point behind Shen and Zhao.

Does that look like an ordinary pattern on the costumes of third-placers Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov from Russia? Look closer. Do you see it? Wait, is that a ... yes, those are geese on their costumes. OK, maybe they are swans, since their routine – done flawlessly Sunday – is set to "The Swan," but still: Waterfowl are on their chests. Hopefully they didn't catch bird flu from their costumes, because they are Russia's best chance at keeping the stranglehold that the Russians have had on pairs' gold since 1964.

Behind the top three are Qing Pang and Jian Tong and fellow Chinese pair Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang. The top Americans were not the national champions, Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, but Barrett's girlfriend, Amanda Evora, and her partner, Mark Ladwig, who are in 10th place and skated their personal best in Vancouver. Denny and Barrett are in 14th place.

The clear winners in ridiculous costumes were from Ukraine: Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov, who are in ninth place.

I don't think an explanation is needed.

Medals will be decided in the very tight pairs race Monday night in the long program. All three top pairs are capable of skating home-run routines, so this should be entertaining. More entertaining than an electric-blue jumpsuit? I guess you'll have to tune in to find out.

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