Updated: 03/26/2014 14:06 | By Agence France-Presse

Savchenko, Szolkowy lead pairs at figure skating worlds

Olympic bronze medallists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany made a convincing start to their bid for a fifth world pairs title by dominating the short programme on Wednesday.

Savchenko, Szolkowy lead pairs at figure skating worlds

Germany's Aliona Savchenko (L) and Robin Szolkowy perform during their short programme, at the world figure skating championships in Saitama, Japan, on March 26, 2014 - by Kazuhiro Nogi

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.

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.

Savchenko, 30, and Szolkowy, 34, 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. 

In Sochi, they were second after the short programme but bungled on two elements in the free skate to settle for a bronze medal.

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