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Russians share lead in ice dance LILLEHAMMER 94


HAMAR, Norway -- They danced the waltz. They danced the blues.

And when it was over, a pair of teams from Russia were tied for the lead and the British legends Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean were in third.

The compulsory competition in ice dance at the Winter Olympics produced little in the way of drama last night.

Maia Usova and Alexander Zhulin were in a first-place tie with Oksana Gritschuk and Yevgeny Platov.

Torvill and Dean, back in the competitive skating world after 10 years on the ice show circuit, clung to third.

The American team of Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow had a misstep in the waltz and were 14th.

Swallow caught a toe-pick and a missed a step.

"Because of the order the ice was a little rough, but you can't avoid that," Punsalan said. "You just have to roll with it."

An ice dancing bobble is rather tame considering the stress the married couple has been under since the murder of her father -- allegedly by one of her brothers -- eight days before the Olympics began.

"The pressure is definitely off here," Swallow said. "We're just here to have a good time. We felt comfortable out there."

Next up in the three-stage competition is the original set program, choreographed to the rumba.

The Russians are ready.

Usova and Zhulin are out to win Olympic gold after taking a silver in 1992.

Gritschuk and Platov are the young couple on the rise, spoilers who won the free-skate program at last month's European Championships.

And Torvill, 35, and Dean, 36, better bring out their best moves. They won their Olympic medal in 1984 -- and they appear to be a couple somehow frozen in time.

"They have come back in an era where the standard is so high," Swallow said. "It's difficult, which is ironic because they are the ones who first set the standard."

Swallow added that skating with the couple he calls "the immortals," was an honor.

He said: "You just want to skate over to the side and watch them."

Round two is tomorrow.

Get ready to rumba.

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