* Medvedeva set new short programme world record
* Canada in the lead at team event
* Italian pair skaters record personal best free skate score (Recasts with pairs’ free skate, adds quotes)
By Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Elaine Lies
GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Evgenia Medvedeva set a new world record on Sunday in the women’s figure skating short programme, with a brilliant skate that helped the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) into second place in the team competition behind Canada.
Medvedeva, the reigning world champion who is competing in her first Olympics, was awarded 81.06 points for her performance, sparking cheers from Russian fans in the crowd.
The 18-year-old overcame a number of hurdles to make it to Pyeongchang, including a broken foot that forced her to drop out of the Grand Prix Final last year and a doping scandal that cast doubt on whether the Russians would be allowed to participate at all.
Medvedeva said her injury and the uncertainty surrounding Russian Olympians had just made her and her team mates stronger.
“I competed to feel the magic of the Olympics,” she said.
Following the women’s short programme the top five teams - Canada, OAR, the United States, Italy and Japan - advanced to the final round of the team event.
Trailing Canada and the OAR, the United States are currently in third place after solid performances by 20-year-old Bradie Tennell and the husband-wife pair of Chris and Alexa Scimeca Knierim.
In the pairs free skate, Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford had a solid performance but did not cleanly land their throw quad Salchow, an element that pushes the technical limits of the sports. The pair earned 148.51 points.
“It’s nice to have a strong performance but not a perfect one here, so we have room left to improve for the individual event,” Radford told Reuters.
Italy’s Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek skated a personal best score of 138.44 points, helping Italy into fourth place, while Olympic Athletes from Russia Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert finished third with 133.28 points.
Earlier on Sunday, Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir produced a sizzling routine to bolster an already strong Canadian team performance.
The reigning world champions and three-time Olympic medallists dazzled with an impressive midline step sequence that earned them 80.51 points.
American brother and sister Maia and Alex Shibutani’s energetic performance that included smooth twizzles and an impressive rotational lift, finished second with 75.46 points.
“It was our strongest performance that we were looking to put out, I think we made a lot of big steps coming out of Nationals,” Alex told reporters, referring to the U.S. competition last month.
“The programme felt great. We went out there with a job and we’re very happy that we did it,” he said, although he added they were a little disappointed at their score.
Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, part of the Russian team that won gold at the 2014 Sochi Games, were third with 74.76 points.
“We had trouble with our rumba,” Soloviev told reporters. “Of course we’re disappointed because we worked on this element more than on the others.”
The first day of the team competition, which included the men’s and pairs short programmes, were marked by falls by Canada’s Patrick Chan and American jumping ace Nathan Chen, although the overall team scores were lifted by the later pairs results.
The final rounds of the event take place on Monday. (Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Amlan Chakraborty)