China's Shen/Zhao lead Olympic pairs figure skating

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China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, competing for their fourth Winter Olympic Games after coming back from retirement, led the standings of pairs figure skating after the short program at the Pacific Coliseum on Sunday.

China's Shen Xue (L) /Zhao Hongbo perform in the pairs short program of figure skating at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, on Feb. 14, 2010.

China's Shen Xue (L) /Zhao Hongbo perform in the pairs short program of figure skating at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, on Feb. 14, 2010.

 Starting first on the Olympic opening day competition, the former world No. 1 turned the bad-luck draw to their own favor by scoring a season best of 76.66 points and handing over their pressure to rival skaters.

The new mark added 1.30 points to the previous season best of all, which was also set by the three-time world champions at the ISU figure skating Grand Prix Finale in December.

Germany's Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy, who lost to Russian Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov in January's European Championships, got their revenge on the latters to take the second place temporarily after coming out the last and skating to Send in the Clowns for 75.96 points.

Kavaguti and Smirnov's performance to The Swan by C. St.-Saens was given 74.16 points, just two points deficit to that of Shen and Zhao. The Russian and German couples, both among the hottest favorites of the pairs title, failed to turn over the table to overtake Shen/Zhao's lead.

Savchenko and Szolkowy were unhappy with the score they took, but declined to complain the umpires, with Szolkowy saying that it's hard to get it in everybody's flavor.

Other two pairs of China, Pang Qing/Tong Jian and Zhang Dan/Zhang Hao finished relatively distant fourth and fifth after Pang and Tong were deducted one point for overtime and the Zhangs failed to hit the high notes at some elements.

The Chinese trio, however, were all satisfied with their own performance and played down an over-stretched burden though each pair had suffered four years ago in Turin and came to Vancouver with very determined and clear targets.

"Shen and I just enjoyed watching everybody else skate and waiting for the final rankings," said Zhao.

And Zhang Hao echoed with a joke: "Yes, we were nervous before we skated, but we worried about the ice rather than our own techniques and performance. We came out the second to last, and the ice was for sure need resurfacing."

Asked how Shen and Zhao felt to win after the Russians had it all in years, the husband said they only wanted to focus on their own.

"I can say for all the Chinese skaters here that all of us are coming to the Olympics for a podium finish, and we all come all out for it," said the 37-year-old Zhao, who pocketed two disappointing bronze medals with his now wife Shen in their last three outings for Olympics.

"As for Shen and me, we go for gold and don't care who or which country have been dominating the pairs figure skating," he added at a press conference after the short program and the draw for Monday's free skating.

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