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Simon Shnapir, Marissa Castelli in ninth for US

Russians soar in pairs

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir had their best score for a short program at an international event.

Ivan Sekretarve/Associated Press

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir had their best score for a short program at an international event.

SOCHI, Russia — Maxim Trankov patted the ice, then kissed his hand.

This home rink has been very good to Russian figure skaters at the Sochi Games. Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar, the reigning world champions, mesmerized their countrymen and the judges Tuesday with their performance in the pairs short program.

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‘‘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.

Two-time US national champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir of the Skating Club of Boston enjoyed an opportunity never afforded to previous Olympians: They got to skate their programs in competition before the pairs event. They had a few mistakes in helping the US to a team bronze, but that seemed to shake the jitters out.

After they botched their side-by-side triple salchows in the team event, they landed them cleanly this time. A big triple twist and throw triple salchow Tuesday put them in ninth place.

Felicia Zhang of New Jersey and Nathan Bartholomay of Pennsylvania also skated cleanly to take 14th. The top 16 teams advance to Wednesday’s free skate.

“The team event helped so much, getting our short program and long program out there already, and then to win a bronze medal,’’ Castelli said. ‘‘So we were able to relax and have fun and just go for it tonight.’’

Volosozhar and Trankov skated a sharp short program 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.’’

They’ll need to match that vitality in the free skate with Savchenko and Szolkowy in range. The Germans, who skate last on 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.

Pang Qing and Tong Jian, the 2010 silver medalists, were fourth, another 1.91 points back.

Four years after the US had its worst showing ever in pairs, with a 10th- and 13th-place finish, both American teams were sharp in their first Olympics, though it didn’t show much in the standings on a night full of clean programs.

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