Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao of China lead the pairs after the Short Program, followed closely by Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany and Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia.
Though Shen and Zhao are the oldest pairs team competing in Vancouver (31 and 36 respectively), it certainly didn’t show.
Skating first, the current bronze medalists set the tone for the event with an instrumental version of Who Wants to Live Forever which featured solid side-by-side triple toeloops, a triple twist, and a throw triple loop. They also earned level 4 on their spins and lift, as well as high Grades of Execution (GoE) for all their elements.
“I was running through all the elements in my head and concentrating on the details,” said Shen. “I am pretty happy with how we skated tonight.”
In their fourth Olympic appearance, Shen and Zhao set a record for the Short Program with a whopping 76.66 (42.22/34.24) points, topping their previous record score of 75.36 points from the 2009-10 Grand Prix Final in December.
“We were really excited to be back in the competition at the Olympic Games,” Zhao told the press. We are happy with our performance today. It was a nice Valentine’s Day present.”
Savchenko and Szolkowy skated last of the 20 pairs and gave a spectacular performance which earned them a new personal best of 75.96 (42.24/33.72) points.
The Germans’ routine to Send in the Clowns featured a huge throw triple flip, as well as strong side-by-side triple toeloops. Their triple twist was equally solid, and their level 4 backward outside death spiral earned +1.26 positive GoEs from the judges.
“Today’s performance was very good. We tried to do our best, not only technically, but with emotion,” said Szolkowy. “We’re looking forward to a good fight tomorrow.”
Kavaguti and Smirnov beat their personal best score from Europeans last month with 74.16 (40.92/33.24) points. The Russian Champions produced solid side-by-side triple toeloops, a triple twist, and throw triple loop.
The European Champions, who skated with an ethereal quality to The Swan, received a level 4 on their lift, pair combination spin and backward outside death spiral.
“It’s just the beginning of the competition, but we are very pleased with how we placed,” said Kavaguti.
The Russians are in a very close third with only 2.50 points separating them from the leaders.
“We’re going to do our very best tomorrow,” Smirnov added. “We want everyone to enjoy our dance and we want to make our coach happy.”
China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong skated with obvious joy and passion in their routine to The Pearl Fishers by Bizet, which was seamless throughout. The former World Champions nailed their opening side-by-side triple toeloops, triple twist, and throw triple loop – all of which earned high GoEs.
They are currently in fourth place with 71.50 (39.90/32.60) points despite a one-point deduction for a time violation.
Teammates Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang also gave strong performance which featured a high triple twist, throw triple loop, and side-by-side triple Salchows. Their routine to Piano Fantasy by W. Joseph earned the reigning silver medalists a new personal best of 71.28 (41.08/30.20) points for fifth place.
Canada’s Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison placed sixth with 65.36 (36.16/30.20) points despite a fall by Dubé on the side-by-side triple Salchows. Nevertheless, the team delivered a a good triple twist and throw triple loop as well as earning level 4 for their lift and spins.
Teammates Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay are close behind with a new personal best of 64.20 (37.60/26.60) points after a solid skate. The Canadian silver medalists produced solid side-by-side triple toeloops, a double twist, and a throw triple Lutz.
Russia’s Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov opened strong with an effortless triple twist, but then Trankov fell on his jump on the side-by-side triple toeloops while Mukhortova put a hand down on hers. The European bronze medalist recovered to deliver an excellent throw triple loop and placed eighth with a score of 63.44 (34.24/30.20) points.
Ukrainians Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov currently sit in ninth place with 62.14 (34.62/27.52) points. While the Skate America silver medalists earned high GoEs for their throw triple loop and triple twist, Morozov put his hand down on the side-by-side triple toeloops.
Skating to music from the Love Actually soundtrack, USA’s Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig delivered a triple twist, side-by-side triple toeloops, and a throw triple loop. With a new personal best of 57.86 (33.10/24.76) points, the U.S. silver medalists are currently in 10th place.
Nicole Della Monica and Yannick Kocon of Italy placed 11th with a new personal best of 56.82 (31.90/24.90) points after their program to music from the Angels and Demons soundtrack. Their routine was highlighted by excellent side-by-side triple Salchows.
Russia’s Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov are currently 12th (56.54), followed by Switzerland’s Anais Morand and Antoine Dorsaz (55.34).
American champs Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett produced a good throw triple Lutz and triple twist in their routine, however, Denney doubled her jump on the opening side-by-side triple toeloops. They sit in 14th place with 53.26 points.