SALT LAKE CITY _ There is a reason Russians have won every figure skating Olympic pairs medal for the past 40 years, and that reason was perfectly clear within seconds after Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze stepped on the ice Saturday night for the short program.
The pair before them, from Slovakia, had just completed a gimmicky program to Michael Jackson tunes, complete with moonwalking. Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, wearing simple ivory costumes, proceeded to put on an elegant, balletic, and perfectly synchronized program that would have made their Russian predecessors proud.
The near-flawless routine put them in first place heading into Monday's free skate, worth two-thirds of the final score.
The Russian pair, …