VANCOUVER (AFP) Chinas Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo celebrated St. Valentines Day and the Chinese New Year by posting a new world best in the pairs figure skating short programme at the Vancouver Olympics on Sunday. The married duo were the first skaters on the ice at the Pacific Coliseum and didnt disappoint the crowd, hitting all their elements during their two-and-a-half minute routine to Queens Who Wants to Live Forever. Shen, 31, and Zhao, 36, lead the way with 76.66 points, to better the mark they already held by 1.30, going into Monday nights free skate finale. But they face a battle for the title with Germanys reigning two-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy just 0.70 behind in second place. Russias Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov are third, 2.50 behind the leaders. It was a good Valentine Days gift, and a brand new start for a brand new year, said 36-year-old Zhao. We have not competed much in the last two years and we came back to compete at the Olympic Games as it is our dream to win an Olympic Gold medal. Even if this past year has been very difficult it feels good to be back at the Olympics. But he remained cautious. Todays just the short programme, tomorrow is more important. Hopefully well be as good as today. Chinese national coach Yao Bin paid tribute to the three-time world champions who returned after two years retirement to challenge for gold after bronze at the last two Olympics. There was a lot of pressure. To be able to put in a performance like that is incredible, said Yao. Savchenko and Szolkowy have had mixed fortunes this season losing their European title to Kavaguti and Smirnov but showed they are still in the fight scoring a personal best 75.96 for their routine to Send in the Clowns. Thanks to the audience it was easy and fun to skate even if we had to skate last of these very good pairs team, said Szolkowy. Were looking forward to a good fight. Japanese-born Kavaguti and Smirnov want to keep the title in Russian hands. Since 1964 a pair from Russia or the former Soviet Union have always stood on the top of the podium. They skated cleanly scoring 74.16 to Camille Saint-Saens The Swan. There bid could depend on them including their throw quadruple salchow, which they have not done since earlier this season. Were going to have dinner tonight and decide what to do for tomorrow, said 28-year-old Kavaguti. Chinas Pang Qing and Tong Jian, the 2006 world champions, were fourth with 71.50 after receiving a one point deduction for running over time, with Olympic silver medallists Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao in fifth with 71.28.