Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo looked as if they'd never been away.
China's pre-eminent pair dominated in their first competition since retiring after winning the 2007 world title, finishing almost 10 points ahead of Ukraine's Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov in the short program at the Cup of China on Friday.
Mirai Nagasu, the 2008 U.S. champion, leads the women's competition while Japan's Nobunari Oda is ahead of Sergei Voronov and world champion Evan Lysacek. Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto lead the ice dance.
The Cup of China finishes Saturday.
Shen and Zhao dazzled the judges in front of a roaring crowd. They've lost none of their athleticism _ their triple twist was huge, and they did nice side-by-side triple toe loop jumps _ and their passion could be felt throughout the arena.
Despite their big lead, Zhao said there were still some defects in their performance. They had some unison issues, particularly on their side-by-side spin.
"We are satisfied with today's performance and we felt the passion of the Chinese fans," he said. "But today is only the short program. I still feel that there are some areas of our performance that weren't the best, so there is potential for improvement."
Russia's Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze are in third, less than half a point behind the Ukranians. World silver medalists Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao are in fourth.
Nagasu had a tough season last year, hampered by a 4-inch growth spurt, ankle injury and ordinary teenage angst. She was a disappointing fifth at the U.S. championships, but a coaching switch _ she now works with Frank Carroll, who also coaches Lysacek _ seems to have gotten her back on track.
She scored 62.60 points in a powerful performance to the waltz "Fragile Dreams" and music from "Pirates of the Caribbean" _ one of her favorite movies. She opened with a nice triple lutz-double toe loop combination, and did a lovely spread eagle into an artfully executed double axel.
Her spins were quick and centered, and she gave a big smile when she finished.
"Coming out of a poor season, I'm so surprised to be here," Nagasu said. "It is a little bit overwhelming, and hopefully I will be going into the long program strong."
Kiira Korpi of Finland was second (61.20 points), followed by former European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy (61.12).
Oda had no letup after winning Trophee Eric Bompard two weeks ago, delivering a passionate performance to Franz Liszt's "Totenanz."
"I am very satisfied from my performance tonight. I did make a few mistakes, so I believe that I can improve my short program," Oda said. "I didn't think I was tired from France, but I was tired from tonight."
Oda, who finished with 83.85 points, credited his success to his change in attitude.
"Last season, I wanted to skate well, so I pushed myself and it didn't work," Oda said. "This year, I tried to relax and believe in myself and coach and that's how I got here."
Lysacek, unveiling a short program he got only about six weeks ago, is third with 80.80 points.
As expected, Belbin and Agosto have a solid lead in the ice dance competition. The world silver medalists edged Russia's Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski by almost two points in the compulsories, then extended their lead in the original dance.
Belbin and Agosto have 98.66 points, almost six ahead of the Russians. Italy's Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy are in third.
The Cup of China is the third of six Grand Prix events. The top skaters in all four disciplines will qualify for the Grand Prix final.