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China's Shen and Zhao Lead After Pairs Short Program

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Well, the pairs who were expected to contend for the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics did not disappoint tonight in the short program.  Fewer than three points separate the top three pairs, which means that every single movement matters tomorrow night in the free skate.  China's Shen and Zhao were the absolute best tonight and set an International Skating Union scoring record with their 76.66.  They are followed by Germany's Savchenko and Szolkowy and Russia's Kavaguti and Smirnov.

The American teams had fairly solid programs but did not score very high.  Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig were clean and are in tenth place, while American National champs Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett had a doubled side-by-side jump, which cost them a lot, they are down in 14th spot.

It wouldn't be an Olympic pairs competition without questionable judging, and tonight the judges did not disappoint.  Canada's Dube and Davison had a fall on side-by-side jumps and did not perform the program as well as they can, but still managed to stay in the top six pairs.  Russia's Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov had a fall as well and appeared to be overmarked, but I honestly would have placed them ahead of Dube and Davison, so at this point none of those scores make sense.  Luckily, the Vancouver Olympic website provides the judging breakdowns, so I'll take a look.

(UPDATE:  A quick look at the scores shows that Dube and Davison scored a lot higher in program components than they have in other international events this season.  It's hard to compare different events because there are different judges, but even in this competition, I find it surprising that the judges found them only about four points behind Shen and Zhao and three points behind Savchenko and Szolkowy and Kavaguti and Smirnov as far as components. The team also received some...robust grade of execution points.  At first I thought Mukhortova and Trankov were scored high, but the Dube and Davison score threw me off.  I would have placed M&T ahead of Dube and Davison).

Pairs Short Program Results
Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao China 76.66
2 Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy Germany 75.96
3 Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnova Russia 74.16
4 Qing Pang and Jian Tong China 71.50
5 Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang China 71.28
6 Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison Canada 65.36
7 Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay Canada 64.20
8 Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov Russia 63.44
9 Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov Ukraine 62.14
10 Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig USA 57.86
11 Nicole Della Monica and Yannick Kocon Italy 56.82
12 Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov Russia 56.54
13 Anais Morand and Antoine Doraz Switzerland 55.34
14 Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett USA 53.26
15 Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur France 51.16
16 Stacey Kemp and David King Great Britain 48.28
17 Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende Germany 45.46
18 Maria Sergejeva and Ilja Glebov Estonia 42.18
19 Ekaterina Kostenko and Roman Talan Ukraine 39.54
20 Joanna Sulej and Mateusz Chruscinski Poland 39.30