Opining on Olympic Team Event (part 2): A close race for third

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The second day of the Team Event is done, and we have a clear leader, a solid second, and a close race for the bronze medal. Team Canada dominated the second day, winning two of the events and placing third in the third. After a slow start, Olympic Athletes from Russia crawled their way back up and are in second. But because of all the topsy-turviness of the first two days, we have a one-point separation between bronze medal favorites, Team USA, and the underdogs, Team Italy. What does this mean for the medal race tomorrow? Let's have a look.

Team Event: Ladies short | Short dance | Pairs free

Strict technical panel for dance
Puzzled looks abound from the dance teams during the Team short dance today. The technical panel were stricter than usual today, particularly on the Rhumba pattern. Only one team (Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte) got even a level 3 on that pattern. And Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir and Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani, two teams who are well known for being precise and accurate in their steps, only got level 2s. It meant lower scores than many expected from these teams.

And though the placements of the top teams were where you would've expected them to be, the scores and the calls here make you wonder how the individual competition short dance will be scored. You better believe these teams will be taking that feedback to heart, because the same technical panel will be working the individual event next week.

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A word on combos
A lot of folks - myself included - were surprised when Kaetlyn Osmond's combination was validated. Normally, when a skater steps out of the first jump in a combo, the second jump does not count and the combo is invalidated. But in Osmond's case, it was a lesser-known definition of the step out that saved her combo, and her standing. If a skater puts their foot down but does not transfer their weight to that free foot, as Osmond did, then the combination is still a combination. Puzzle solved.

Relative positioning will matter
One point separate Team USA and Team Italy, and Team Japan is three points behind that. For Japan to make up ground tomorrow, they will need to basically win both the men's and ladies' events, because their dance team will solidly be fifth among that group. It's mathematically possible for Japan to win bronze, but it's very unlikely.

So then you go to USA and Italy, where the Americans, on paper, are the favorites, because they will be the favorites in two of the three events tomorrow - men and dance - while Italy is favored in the free with Carolina Kostner in the mix. Here is where relative placements really come into play, because they are basically going head-to-head.

The men start things off tomorrow. Between Adam Rippon and Matteo Rizzo, Rippon is favored to win that matchup, with Rizzo likely fifth. Team USA will be looking for Rippon to extend the lead, and with any of the other four men potentially capable of winning the free skate tomorrow, a strong showing for Rippon will do a lot for Team USA's chances.

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Hello, World!

The women follow, and here's where Italy has the advantage. It will be Kostner vs Mirai Nagasu, who can really close the door if she can keep it close in placement to Kostner. And with the free skate not being Kostner's strong point this season, that could very well happen. Any number of skaters between Kostner and Nagasu will allow Italy to eat into Team USA's lead even more heading into the free dance.

For the free dance, it will be Shibutani/Shibutani anchoring for the U.S., and Cappellini/Lanotte anchoring for the Italians. The Shibutanis are the favorites over Cappellini/Lanotte, but can the Shibutanis dig out of the free dance issues the've had in their last two competitions? If the Americans come in with a 2-3 point cushion, it's less of an issue. But if it's a point, then this head-to-head will be supremely crucial for both teams.

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And OMG Marchei/Hotarek!
The performance of the day really belonged to Valentina Marchei/Ondrej Hotarek, who skated a clean free skate with a huge personal best to give keep Team Italy close to the Americans. What a skate. Watch it here