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Sasha Cohen Surges Into Lead Ahead of Russian favorite Slutskaya

Perhaps the biggest marquee event of the Winter Olympics, women's figure skating, is under way. And the competition in Turin, Italy is building to what could be a classic showdown for gold.

U.S. women's figure skating champion Sasha Cohen surged into the lead ahead of Russian favorite Irina Slutskaya and former world champion Shizuka Arakawa of Japan after the short program late Tuesday.

The 21-year-old Cohen was runner-up at the last two world championships and had to settle for a silver medal in Moscow behind Slutskaya last year. Now the 27-year-old Slutskaya, who won Olympic silver four years ago, is targeting an unprecedented Russian sweep of figure skating titles at the Turin Olympics. Russians earlier captured the men's, women's pairs and ice dancing titles.

Both Cohen and Slutskaya gave strong performances to set up a potentially exciting free skate finale. Only three-100ths of one point separates their scores (Cohen 66.73, Slutskya 66.70). Arakawa is also within one point of winning gold (66.02).

The free program is Thursday.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP.