There's no question about it — Russia is back on top.
After failing to medal in pairs at the 2010 Olympics, Russian pairs took 1-2 in Sochi.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov skated away with the gold medal. They were far from perfect — she touched down on a throw — but the rest of their elements were solid. Between this performance and their huge lead after the short program, they were untouchable.
Their teammates Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov captured the silver with a flawless skate, moving up from third place after the short.
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Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy — who were expected to vie for a title — had two costly falls and repeated as Olympic bronze medalists. They attempted the risky but high-scoring throw triple Axel at the end of their program but crashed hard on it.
Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China, the other returning medalists, finished just off the podium with an emotion-filled performance. Both the Germans and Chinese said this would be their final season.
The U.S. pairs — Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay — turned in solid performances and finished ninth and 12th, respectively.
The fact that Volosozhar and Trankov hadn't even paired up until after the 2010 Olympics bodes well for the future of Russian pairs. And they have strong successors in Stolbova and Klimov, who began skating together only in 2009. Their medals here will bolster the pairs program, which has churned out every Olympic gold medal pair from 1964 to 2006.
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With China's veteran pairs retiring from the sport, Russia looks to reign once again.
Postscript: A bit of history was made in Sochi, with Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang landing the first quadruple twist at the Olympics.
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