Russian figure skating duo Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov put the rest of the world on notice during the pairs short program on Tuesday.
They broke their own world record with a score of 84.17 to take an emphatic lead for the gold medal at the 2014 Winter Games, via RIA Novosti (Russian News & Information Agency):
Outscoring the dynamic duo of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy from Germany by 4.53 points, Volosozhar and Trankov need only put together a clean run in the free program on Wednesday to secure the gold for Russia.
"This was the perfect moment to give our best performance," Trankov said, as relayed by the Associated Press, via ESPN.com.
Russia's figure skating team has already one-upped itself from 2010's disappointing result with a gold medal in the team competition.
During the Games in Vancouver, the current host country—one of the heavy favorites to dominate in most years—failed to earn a single gold medal in this discipline and finished with just one silver and one bronze medal.
Volosozhar and Trankov are now poised to add another gold medal to the team's collection, and it surely helps that the home crowd has been avidly and overwhelmingly supportive of the two stars. This was clearly evidenced on Tuesday when the large contingency of locals waived flags and offered loud cheers.
"When all the audience is up on its feet, it gives us great energy," Trankov said, via the AP report. "We were trying to breathe together with the audience and feel the good wishes from them, and it has helped us through this program."
It wasn't just the fans who were in awe of the Russian duo's world-record performance, either. Eleanor Oldroyd of BBC Radio felt "hugely privileged" to be at the rink to witness the historic event live:
One hiccup in the free program, along with a flawless performance by Savchenko and Szolkowy, could potentially knock the Russian pair off the top of the mountain.
Which team will win gold?
However, given the way the two skaters have been working so well together heading into Sochi, and the way they made perfection look so effortless on Tuesday, a gold medal seems far more likely.
Russian skaters have long set the benchmark for figure skating excellence. Volosozhar and Trankov are taking this concept to another level at the 2014 Winter Games. One more remarkable performance will cement them as Olympic heroes for the host nation.
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