SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Maxim Trankov patted the ice then kissed his hand.
This home rink has been very good to Russian figure skaters so far at the Sochi Games. Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar, the reigning world champions, mesmerized their countrymen and the judges Tuesday in their victorious performance in the pairs short program.
"This is a very special moment in our lives, to be skating in a Russian Olympics," he said.
Volosozhar and Trankov scored 84.17 points to lead Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany by 4.53 going into Wednesday's free skate. Fellow Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov were third, another 4.43 points back.
Volosozhar and Trankov skated a sharp short program Thursday to help the Russians win gold in the first Olympic team event. They were even better Tuesday.
"This was the perfect moment to give our best performance," Trankov said.
Right on time to restore the country's dominance in pairs. Russia or the Soviet Union had won gold in 12 straight Olympics in the event before the streak ended four years ago, when the Russians failed to take home any pairs medal from Vancouver.
Watching from the stands Tuesday was the pair who started the streak: Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, who won consecutive golds in 1964 and '68. More Russian sports royalty turned out: Olympic hockey team members including Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.
Skating to "Masquerade Waltz," Volosozhar and Trankov's every movement crackled with passion. As the music swelled, Trankov thrust out his arm, his mouth open in a roar that was returned by the crowd of Russian flag-waving fans.
"When all the audience is up on its feet, it gives us great energy," he said. "We were trying to breathe together with the audience and feel the good wishes from them."
Trankov's long hair and the epaulets on his military uniform trailed behind him as the Russians stepped across the ice they treated as their own ballroom. Volosozhar soared high above him on the triple twist and throw triple loop.
They'll need to match that vitality in the free skate with Savchenko and Szolkowy in range. The Germans, who skate last Wednesday, are four-time world champs, but are missing one piece of hardware from their collection.
They had to settle for Olympic bronze four years ago after he fell on their side-by-side double axels in the free skate.