After getting shut out of pairs figure skating medals in Vancouver, Russia looks poised to claim several in Sochi.
The host country has two pairs in podium position after Tuesday's short program.
Leading the way are reigning world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, who skated a brilliant interpretation of "Masquerade Waltz." Despite skating a little more reservedly than usual, they earned a world record 84.17.
They have a healthy lead over their German rivals, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. The bronze medalists debuted a new short program to "The Pink Panther" (with Aliona in an eye-catching bodysuit). And while they skated cleanly, they didn't have the polish of the leaders. They scored 79.64.
The battle for bronze will be between the second-ranked Russian team, Stolbova and Klimov, China's Pang and Tong, and Canada's Duhamel and Radford. They sit in third, fourth and fifth place, respectively.
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Reigning U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir skated a personal best and find themselves in a respectable ninth place. Their teammates Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay sit in 14th place.
Given their lead, Volosozhar and Trankov will be tough to beat. The 4.5-point lead affords them a small mistake in the free skate. Savchenko and Szolkowy will need to skate cleanly and hit the throw triple Axel to make up that gap.
The pairs skate for gold Wednesday night. Until Vancouver, Russian or Soviet pairs have won every Olympics since 1964. Will they reclaim gold in Sochi? Share your predictions in the comments below.
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