Shen-Zhao Leading By 0.7 Points After Pairs Short Program

China's team of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao was the first to skate Sunday night in the Pairs Short Program, and they quickly showed why they are the gold medal favorites, turning in a record score of 76.66.

For most of the night, it looked like their lead would be insurmountable. But then the final five pairs skated, and suddenly it is a logjam at the top heading into Monday night's Free Skate for the gold medal. Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are just 0.7 points behind the Chinese, and Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov are in third, just 2.5 points back.

In all, there are five pairs within 5.38 points of each other. The Free Skate portion will be broadcast live Monday night on NBC, beginning at 8 p.m.

Our figure skating blog, Required Elements, offered her quick reaction to tonight's Short Program.

Shen and Zhao (China): YES TRIPLE TOES, perfect. Nice triple twist. I got scared just before the throw triple loop but there was obviously no reason for that. She seemed a tad behind on the spin ending but that is very much a nitpick. Great lift, great energy and speed ... 76.66, RECORD, WAHHOOO. [...]

Savchenko and Szolkowy:  Throw triple flip - no problem!!!  Wow, she seemed a bit over eager on that side by side triple toe, but LANDED perfectly, this is great.  Triple twist not as good as they can do - more of a collision.  Spins are so fast but not perfectly on ... 75.96, personal best, JUST BEHIND Shen and Zhao.

I guess the much-predicted podium of Shen and Zhao, Savchenko and Szolkowy, and Kavaguti and Smirnov is on target right now.  I cannot believe how great the skating was tonight from some of the top pairs.  I can also not believe some of the scores ...

More: SB Nation's full coverage of the Winter Olympics and the 2010 Winter Olympics Medal Count Tracker.

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