French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron made a commanding start to their quest for Olympic gold on Saturday, breaking their own world record to place top in rhythm dance.
The five-time European and four-time world champions, who are chasing their first Games title after coming second in 2018 when a wardrobe malfunction disrupted their performance, scored 90.83.
Dancing to John Legend in matching sheer burgundy, the French duo’s fluid, fast choreography and technical tightness saw them edge their closest rivals, Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov.
The Russians came second with 88.85 but seemed to have had great fun with a tongue-in-cheek performance to striptease staple “You Can Leave Your Hat On”.
They are the reigning European and world champions after Papadakis and Cizeron skipped those competitions due to Covid concerns, and this is the first time the pairs have faced off in a major competition for over two years.
Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue placed third ahead of compatriots Madison Chock and Evan Bates, whose compelling Billie Eilish programme was marred by a slip-up from Chock.
Russian coach Eteri Tutberidze, under scrutiny after her 15-year-old student and favourite for individual gold Kamila Valieva was caught in a doping scandal, appeared briefly rinkside.
Checking her phone frequently, she was there to cheer on her daughter Diana Davis — who placed 14th — and left immediately afterwards.