Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov are right where they've been all season.
In first place.
The Russians won the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships on Wednesday, edging Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford with their sultry, sassy and very, very classy "Godfather" program. Volosozhar and Trankov outscored the Canadians by more than three points in components - the old artistic mark - on their way to a total of 75 84.
"One more day to show our best," Volosozhar said. "The key to winning is to just skate, show our emotions and our elements."
With just 2.23 points separating the Russians and Canadians going into Friday's free skate, the title is still very much up for grabs. Don't overlook four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, either, who are just 0.14 points behind Duhamel and Radford despite a lackluster performance.
"We just have to skate clean," Szolkowy said. "Then the others have to do their job."
Neither of the U.S. teams was able to crack the top 10 in their worlds debut. Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim are 12th, one spot ahead of U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.
Volosozhar and Trankov have won every competition they've entered this season, claiming the Grand Prix Final title and then upsetting the Germans to win the European championship. While they might not have had the Canadians' spunk and originality, they oozed the confidence of a team ready to be champions from the moment they stepped on the ice.
Their throw triple twist was huge, with Volosozhar getting so much height she really ought to have a pilot's license. Or clearance from air traffic control.
Their spins were solid, as was their throw triple loop and lift. But it was their artistry that set them apart. They portrayed the characters of the Godfather love theme perfectly, right down to her stunning dark dress with a plunging back and jeweled collar.
Their only flaw was her two-footing their side-by-side triple salchows, but she covered it well.
"We had some mistakes today, in my solo jump. I put down my foot," Volosozhar said. "But overall, it was a good short program."
Duhamel and Bradford had, by far, the most athletically ambitious program of the day. All of the couples have a list of elements they're required to do, but the Canadians opted to do the hardest tricks of the day. While many couples did salchows or loops, they went for a throw triple lutz and side-by-side triple lutzes. And singles skaters might want to take note of their technique on the lutzes, because it was textbook.
Their twist was so high, he had time to put his arms down by his side and take a breather before reaching up to catch her.
Duhamel was so excited at the end of their program she hopped up and down before they saluted the crowd. When their score, a personal best, was announced, Duhamel's mouth dropped open.
"Our confidence was so strong," Radford said. "We knew we could do it and we did."
Savchenko and Szolkowy have made a career out of pushing the boundaries with adventurous and athletic programs and "unique" - some would go right to ugly - costumes. Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't help but watch them, and they never fail to entertain.
The Germans were so uninspiring, even her short shorts seemed sedate.
"On paper, it was a season's best, but it wasn't a season's best for us," Savchenko said. "We know how we can skate in practice. It felt a little hard to skate, like the handbrake was pulled."
They may as well not have bothered with their music, "Kismet" by Bond," because they barely acknowledged it. Their side-by-side combination spins were woefully out-of-unison, and he wobbled as if being blown by a stiff wind on the landing of their side-by-side triple toe loops.
They did have a strong throw triple flip, and their death spiral was probably the best of the day. The guys are usually little more than props in the move, pivoting while the woman circles around him in a backbend-like position. But Szolkowy grabbed hold of his blade and pulled his leg high above his head as they entered the death spiral, a feat of both strength and flexibility.
For a couple who've been together less than a year, Scimeca and Knierim put on a good show. The unison on their spins, in particular, was impressive. It's the hardest thing for a new pair to master, but they looked like old pros, turning together in perfect time to their music. They lost points on the side-by-side triple salchows after he under-rotated the jump.
Still, he stayed upright, which is more than Shnapir did on their side-by-side jumps.
"Today wasn't our best, but we're definitely ready to go for Friday," Castelli said. "The short program, it's our easier program, but the first time stepping out there is always nerve-wracking."
The men's short program is later Wednesday.