VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — It takes two to tango, and Friday night the best at the Olympics were world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin.
The couple won the compulsory dance, an exercise — some say it's monotonous — to repetitive music that began the ice dancing competition.
For the tango romantica — not to be confused with the teasingly seductive tango by men's silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko — the Russians earned 43.76 points. Their program was highly expressive and was rewarded by especially high marks for interpretation.
Their lead is 1.02 points over Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who were third at last year's worlds. Rarely are there upsets in compulsory dance, which often means a Russian couple in first place. Either a Russian or Soviet dance team has won all but two gold medals since the sport was added to the Olympics in 1976.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White, winners of the last two U.S. championships, were third with 41.47 points, followed by 2006 Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto — who would like to say "good riddance" to compulsories.
To be fair, the rest of the competition could have plenty of excitement, and some controversy, in Sunday's original dance and Monday's free dance. And it figures to be much more unpredictable than the identical patterns required in compulsories.
"We skated our best tango of the season and we are very optimistic about the future," Shabalin said.
The future, it appears, is a tangle with the Canadians and Americans.
"Every competition, every worlds, it's this close," Moir said. "You can't win the competition, but you can lose it (in compulsories)."
France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, the 2008 world champions, came in sixth just 4½ months after she gave birth to a son.