| SOCHI, Russia
SOCHI, Russia A rousing performance by world pairs champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov put hosts Russia in pole position to win the first ever figure skating team event gold medal at the Winter Olympics on Thursday.
With the event making its Olympic debut at the Sochi Games, Volosozhar and Trankov were foot perfect with their interpretation of Aram Khatchaturian's Masquerade Waltz.
The Russian pair blew away nearest rivals Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada by more than 10 points with a score of 83.79.
With compatriot Yevgeny Plushenko pulling off a clean skate to finish second in the men's event earlier on Thursday, the host nation led the team standings with 19 points.
Volosozhar and Trankov moved in perfect synchronization as they soared through their triple toeloops, whirled around in their spins and stuck the landing in a throw triple loop.
As Trankov majestically ended the program on his knees, the crowd leapt to their feet to holler their approval.
At the halfway point of the team short programs, Russia, Canada, China and Japan occupy the top four spots in the standings while the United States are in danger of missing the cut for the free skate as they trail in seventh with 10 points.
The team event features 10 nations and each country has one representative competing in men's singles, women's singles, pairs and ice dancing. They each perform a short program, after which the top five nations battle it out for the medals by competing in the free skates.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)