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Dubé, Davison battle world's best

Canadian medal hopefuls Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison will try to reach the podium Monday in the pairs free program, a contest which, combined with Sunday's short component, will determine the 2010 Olympic champions.

Record-breaking Chinese team, dominant German duo expected to fight for gold

Canadian medal hopefuls Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison will try to reach the podium Monday in the pairs free program, a contest which, combined with Sunday's short component, will determine the 2010 Olympic champions.

The competition is set for 5 p.m. PT at Pacific Coliseum.

It will be the first set of figure-skating medals awarded at the Vancouver Games.

Dubé, 22, and Davison, 24, Canada's national champions, enter the contest in sixth place with 65.36 points.

One notch behind them are fellow Canadians Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay, making their Olympic debut after a season off. They finished the short program in seventh place. Their score of 64.20 was a personal best.

While Canada has high hopes for its contingent — particularly Dubé and Davison, who delivered a powerhouse performance at this year's nationals — eyes are on other teams as well, including one that broke a world record Sunday.

That was China's Shen Xue and Zhao Honbo, back from two years in retirement, who are expected to challenge Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy for gold.

In the short program, the married Chinese duo took first place with 76.66 points. The Germans, who are reigning world champions, were close behind with 75.96.

Savchenko and Szolkowy have taken the German title six times and won the European championships three times. They've also been world champions twice but struggled this season.

In third position is the Russian duo of Yuko Kavaguti, who was born in Japan but competes for Russia, and Aleksandr Smirnov.

The couple face considerable pressure since the country has won each of the last 12 Olympics in the pairs event.

(In 2002, Russia shared the gold medal with Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.)

For the Canadians to crack the top three spots, mistakes like the one made on Sunday— Dubé fell on a triple Salchow— simply can't happen.

In fact, to secure their chances of reaching the podium, Dubé and Davison will have to score more than 200 points while impressing the judges.

As Shen and Hongbo demonstrated in the short program, it's competition with no room for flaws.

The pair would know. They've come to Vancouver with two Olympic bronze medals already in their pockets— and they're determined to return home with gold.

Despite being more senior than their youthful opponents (Shen is 31, Hongbo, 36— but American competitor Caydee Denney is 16), they've proven age isn't a factor in a winning performance.