Germany's Savchenko, Szolkowy lead worlds
SAITAMA, Japan - Agence France-Presse
Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (L) compete during the pairs short program at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama, north of Tokyo March 26, 2014. REUTERS PhotoRetiring Olympic bronze medallists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany launched their bid for a fifth world pairs title in style by dominating the short programme on Wednesday.
In the absence of Olympic champions and main rivals, Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, the pair collected 79.02 points, skating to the music of "Pink Panther" on the opening day of the world championships, their last competition.
Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, seventh at the Sochi Games last month and third at last year's worlds, scored a personal best of 77.01 to trail in second spot going into the final free skate on Thursday.
Russia's Sochi silver medallists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov came in third at 76.15, followed by two Chinese pairs.
Sui Wenjing and Han Cong were fourth at 72.24 and Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao fifth at 71.68.
"It didn't feel like it was the last short programme of our career," Savchenko, 30, said.
Szolkowy, 34, said: "Even before we started I noticed that the people really like us, maybe even love us."
"It was fun. It was the right decision to come here and to show it all," he added at the halfway mark of the pair's 10th straight and last world championship challenge.
The Germans opened their routine with a clean throw triple flip, followed by a triple twist lift and a side-by-side triple toeloop.
They went on to hit a maximum level-four in a backward inside death spiral as well as a combination spin, a reverse lift and a step sequence.
The world champions in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 finished third at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. They have announced that they plan to retire after these championships.
In Sochi, they were second after the short programme but bungled on two elements in the free skate to settle for a bronze medal.
Duhamel and Radford were also happy after improving their short programme personal best by 3.40 points,
"We want to skate our long (free) programme like how we skated our short," said Radford, 29. "We have been struggling with our long recently, so a great long will mean something to us." Stolbova and Klimov were also upbeat after skating their best short programme so far on their world championship debut.
"We did feel some pressure as we're here as the top Russian pair. So we're also supposed to skate as the top Russian pair," said 22-year-old Stolbova, adding they will try to ignore the pressure and "just skate and enjoy Japan".